Austria’s Hannes Arch pulls out all the stops to post the fastest time in Qualifying for Sunday’s Red Bull Air Race in Rovinj, Croatia.

ROVINJ (Croatia) – Hannes Arch of Austria won pole position for the second stop of the 2014 Red Bull Air Race World Championship in the Croatian city of Rovinj after he out-dueled Britain’s Paul Bonhomme in a spine-tingling Qualifying battle on Saturday along the shoreline of the Adriatic Sea. On a challenging course, Canada’s Pete McLeod took third on an afternoon filled with spectacular pylon hits while Germany’s Matthias Dolderer continued his strong flying run on the track in the northern Croatian venue with fourth place.

Cheered on by a crowd filled with flag-waving fans from nearby Austria, Arch opened the throttle and went all out in his Qualifying run to post the fastest time of the day, 57.72 seconds. Championship leader Bonhomme was just a split second behind in 57.87 seconds as Arch, the 2008 world champion, and Bonhomme, who won the 2009 and 2010 titles, kept their ferocious battle going strong after Bonhomme just barely beat Arch in the season opener in Abu Dhabi last month.

Bonhomme posted the fastest time in the final training session earlier on Saturday and had the final run through the pylon-filled obstacle course on a chilly and cloudy afternoon in Rovinj, known as the blue pearl of the Adriatic. Arch’s narrow win sparked loud cheers from the contingent of Austrian fans crowding the grandstands. Arch was also supported by Austrian sports legends Thomas Muster, a former world number one in tennis, sailing double Olympic gold medalist Hans Peter Steinacher and ski jumping champion Thomas Morgenstern.

In related racing action also taking place, Frenchman François Le Vot and Great Britain’s Thomas Bennett finished in first and second place respectively in the hotly contested Challenger Cup, with Le Vot covering the course in a solid time of 1:01.19 despite unpredictable winds and Bennett logging 1:02.53. Making the most of his first-ever appearance in the Challenger Cup, which gives the next generation of promising pilots the chance to develop their low-altitude flying skills under racing conditions, was Peter Podlunšek of nearby Slovenia, who finished in third place with a time of 1:02.76.

Results Qualifying: 1. Hannes Arch (AUT) 57.72, 2. Paul Bonhomme (GBR) 57.87, 3. Pete McLeod (CAN) 58.15, 4. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 58.51, 5. Nigel Lamb (GBR) 58.64, 6. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 58.68, 7. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 59.82, 8. Peter Besenyei (HUN) 1:00.21, 9. Matt Hall (AUS) 1:00.56, 10, Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 1:00.63. 11. Michael Goulian (USA) 1:01.40, 12. Martin Sonka (CZE) DNF.

Results Challenger Cup: 1. Francois Le Vot (FRA) 1:01:19, 2. Tom Bennett (GBR) 1:02:53, 3. Peter Podlunsek (SLO) 1:02:76, 4. Mikael Brageot (FRA) 1:03:19, 5. Luke Czepiela (POL) 1:03:27