Britain kept its lock the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in place for a fourth straight season when Paul Bonhomme won a record-breaking third title, staving off a spellbinding challenge from Australia’s Matt Hall who took first place in the final race season in Las Vegas. Britain’s Nigel Lamb had a difficult year after winning the title in 2014.
LAS VEGAS (USA) – Paul Bonhomme was crowned the 2015 Red Bull Air Race World Champion on Sunday after finishing a close second place in the final race of the season on Sunday at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway behind Matt Hall, staving off a thrilling challenge from the hard-charging Australian. Britain’s Nigel Lamb, who won the title in 2014 took seventh overall.
It was Bonhomme’s third championship, in his 10th season in the world’s fastest motorsport series, after the British ace won the title 2009 and 2010. Britain has now won the championship in fourth straight seasons. Bonhomme, who had to overcome nerve-wracking technical problems just before the final race, ended up with 76 world championship points, just five ahead of Hall on 71 with Austria’s Hannes Arch third overall with 34 points.
“It’s amazing, just amazing,” said a sweat-drenched Bonhomme, who had four wins and seven podiums in the eight races this season and scored a record-breaking 76 championship points. “What happened today was a million miles away from what I had imagined would happen. All kind of things happened that I didn’t expect. But as a team, we sorted it out and here we are. It was the toughest World Championship I’ve ever had. It was hard work.”
Bonhomme, the sport’s most successful pilot with 19 career wins in 66 races, needed to finish at least sixth place to win the title. But the pressure was on just before flying into the track in a difficult head-to-head Round of 8 battle against Arch. Bonhomme was suddenly forced to return to the race airport due to technical problems that could have cost him the championship if he could not fly against Arch. Bonhomme had earlier got caught in a sudden downpour of rain in the previous Round of 14 that had done more damage to his wing and technical equipment than first thought. But his crew quickly repaired the air speed and ground speed equipment and Bonhomme returned to the sky to beat Arch and advance to the final, where he was second behind Hall.
“The conditions were shocking,” said Hall, of the ominous rain clouds in the desert area around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “There was a lot of pressure on Paul and he did what he had to do – so congratulations. It’s been an amazing year.”
For Lamb it was a difficult season after getting on the podium in seven of eight races in 2014 to win the title. “This wasn’t my year, ” said Lamb, who was 10th in Las Vegas and didn’t get on the podium in any of the eight races. “What’s happened this season has focused our mind on where to put our resources in the winter months. We’re really looking forward to next season and starting strong.”
Lamb had two great training runs on Friday, posting the fastest times of the day in both sessions. But he struggled in the turbulent conditions in Las Vegas and got knocked out in the Round of 14 by Yoshihide Muroya of Japan, who had won Qualifying on Saturday. “The track was wild,” said Lamb. “The wind in the earlier sessions this week was more benign and I think we were unlucky to fly at the end of the Round of 14 today when the winds were the highest.”
RESULTS, LAS VEGAS: 1. Matt Hall (AUS), 2. Paul Bonhomme (GBR), 3. Matthias Dolderer (GER), 4. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN), 5. Hannes Arch (AUT), 6. Michael Goulian (USA), 7. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA), 8. Martin Sonka (CZE), 9. Juan Velarde (ESP), 10. Nigel Lamb (GBR), 11. Pete McLeod (CAN), 12. Kirby Chambliss (USA), 13. Peter Besenyei (HUN), 14. François Le Vot (FRA)
FINAL 2015 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1. Bonhomme (GBR) 76 point, 2. Hall (AUS) 71, 3. Arch (AUT) 34, 4. Sonka (CZE) 29, 5. Dolderer (GER) 26, 6. Muroya (JPN) 23, 7. Lamb (GBR) 20, 8. McLeod (CAN) 19, 9. Ivanoff (FRA) 15, 10. Goulian (USA) 13, 11. Chambliss (USA) 9, 12. Besenyei (HUN) 8, 13. Velarde (ESP), 14. Le Vot (FRA)