Bonhomme holds onto Red Bull Air Race lead, Lamb stays in title hunt  - Image © 2015 Red Bull Media House GmbH

Bonhomme holds onto Red Bull Air Race lead,
Lamb stays in title hunt
– Image © 2015 Red Bull Media House GmbH

Red Bull Air Race World Championship leader Paul Bonhomme managed to hold onto his overall lead despite a eighth place. Nigel Lamb kept hopes of defending his 2014 title alive with a stirring fifth place finish in the most competitive race in the history of the high-speed, low-altitude sport.

ROVINJ, Croatia – Bonhomme was hoping to win his third race in a row but got eliminated in the Round of 8 by Australia’s red-hot Matt Hall after exceeding the 10-G limit for a fraction of a second too long just before completing the run in which he was comfortably leading. Instead of getting what appeared to be a sure ticket to the Final Four, Bonhomme was handed a Did Not Finish (DNF) and dropped to eight place with just one championship point instead of the 12 he was hoping to take home. Hall ended up third, collected seven points, and moved up just behind Bonhomme in the overall championship with 25 points.

Bonhomme is still in the overall lead despite equal points by virtue of his two race victories this season. Hall has two second places and one third place. After barely beating Lamb in the Round of 8, Austria’s Hannes Arch went on to the Final Four to the race in Rovinj by the narrowest margin ever, 0.071 of a second, with Martin Sonka of the Czech Republic taking second.

“I went for it and annoyingly I had an over-G by six-hundredths of a second,” said a disappointed Bonhomme after his two-race winning streak was snapped. “One wrong muscle movement will see you tumble and that’s what I did.”

Lamb put in a strong performance in racing on Sunday, first beating Hall decisively the opening Round of 14 before improving his race time even further to his best of the week in the Round of 8. But he was nevertheless knocked out by the eventual winner Arch. Arch’s time of 53.817 was just fractionally ahead of Lamb’s time of 53.964.

“I’m very happy with the way I flew today,” said Lamb, who had struggled with penalties in Qualifying on Saturday. “Obviously it’s very disappointing to have been beaten by 0.1 seconds or whatever it was in the Round of 8. I’d rather been first today than fifth.” Lamb is fourth overall with 12 points and still very much in the hunt for the overall championship with five races remaining on the calendar.

Arch bounced back in style after struggling in training this week and Qualifying on Saturday to win race by the closest margin ever and turn the eight-race world championship battle into a tight-three way fight at the top. Sonka got a career-best second place in the race, where pilots hit speeds of 370 km/h, on the difficult, windswept racecourse set up just off the shorelines of Rovinj.

In an indication of the increasing competitiveness, the 0.071-second gap between Arch (54.012 seconds) and Sonka (54.083 seconds) was the narrowest in race history. Last year Arch (59.012) beat Bonhomme by 0.085-second (59.097). Also the top five pilots had posted times in Qualifying on Saturday within a quarter of a second of each other and in the race on Sunday there were a number of head-to-head battles decided by tiny fractions of a second.

Paul Bonhomme of Great Britain performs during the finals of the third stage of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Rovinj, Croatia on May 31, 2015. // Predrag Vuckovic/Red Bull Content Pool // P-20150531-25972 // Usage for editorial use only // Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information. //

Paul Bonhomme of Great Britain performs during the finals of the third stage of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Rovinj, Croatia on May 31, 2015. // Predrag Vuckovic/Red Bull Content Pool // P-20150531-25972 // Usage for editorial use only // Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information. //

Rovinj race results:1. Hannes Arch (AUT), 2. Martin Sonka (CZE), 3. Matt Hall (AUS), 4. Michael Goulian (USA), 5. Nigel Lamb (GBR), 6. Matthias Dolderer (GER), 7. Pete McLeod (CAN), 8. Paul Bonhomme (GBR), 9. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA), 10. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN), 11. Kirby Chambliss (USA), 12. Peter Besenyei (HUN), 13. Juan Velarde (ESP), 14. Francois Le Vot (FRA)

World Championship standings: 1. Bonhomme (25 points), 2. Hall (25), 3. Arch (17), 4. Lamb (12), 5. Dolderer (10), 6. Sonka (9), 7. McLeod (9), 8. Goulian (8), 9. Ivanoff (6), 10. Muroya (4), 11. Chambliss (2), 12. Besenyei (2), 13. Velarde (0), 14. Le Vot (0)