Britain’s Paul Bonhomme won the Red Bull Air Race World Championship season opener in Abu Dhabi on Saturday with a hard-fought victory over Australia’s Matt Hall on the high-speed, low-altitude race track.
ABU DHABI – Hitting top speeds of 370 km/h while flying just above the turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf, Bonhomme mastered the scorching temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius and the changing winds to take top honors with a time of 57.787 seconds in the first of eight races in 2015 of the world’s fastest motorsport series. Bonhomme had to first beat defending champion Nigel Lamb twice in the Round of 14 and Round of 8 but his compatriot put up a fantastic fight in their Round of 8 battle even though his wing spats had been damaged, causing him unnecessary drag.
“It was all in a busy day’s work,” said Bonhomme, who won in Abu Dhabi for the second consecutive year and fourth time overall. Bonhomme, who also won the 2009 and 2010 world championships, now has 16 career victories and 40 podiums – the most successful pilot in the sport’s history. “Our whole team has a lot of experience and I think we’re able to get out of the blocks faster than the other teams.”
Lamb, who had struggled earlier in the week in training, was able to find his good form again just in time for the race on Saturday and pushed Bonhomme to the limits all day. Lamb also took comfort in the fact that he also finished fifth in Abu Dhabi a year ago before going on to win the world championship with six straight podiums.
“We had a huge performance disadvantage because the wheel spats broke off,” said Lamb. “To come out and post the time I did with no wheel pads and get fifth place is pretty good. So we’re very happy that we have the whole package and are looking forward to the next race. We’ll come back strongly in Chiba, Japan.”
Abu Dhabi, with its knowledgeable and enthusiastic motorsport fans, hosted the Red Bull Race World Championship season opener for an eighth straight time. There were 14 pilots from 11 nations battling for championship points in the race in which pilots navigate a low-level slalom track made up of 25-meter high air-filled pylons at high speeds while enduring forces of up to 10G. Many of Abu Dhabi’s high-society spectators watched the action in style at the Sky Lounge and Race Club, the official and exclusive hospitality programs. The next race will be in Chiba, Japan on May 16/17.
Results: 1. Paul Bonhomme (GBR), 2. Matt Hall (AUS), 3. Pete McLeod (CAN), 4. Hannes Arch (AUT), 5. Nigel Lamb (GBR), 6. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN), 7. Peter Besenyei (HUN), 8. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA), 9. Matthias Dolderer (GER), 10. Martin Sonka (CZE). 11. Francois Le Vot (FRA), 12. Michael Goulian (USA), 13. Juan Velarde (ESP), 14. Kirby Chambliss (USA)
World Championship Standings: 1. Bonhomme (12 points), 2. Hall (9), 3. McLeod (7), 4. Arch (5), 5. Lamb (4), 6. Muroya (3), 7. Besenyei (2), 8. Ivanoff (1), 9. Dolderer, 10. Sonka, 11. Le Vot, 12. Goulian, 13. Velarde, 14. Chambliss