Britain’s Paul Bonhomme won the Red Bull Air Race World Championship for a record-breaking third time, staving off a spellbinding challenge from Australia’s Matt Hall who took a sensational first place in the final race season in Las Vegas on Sunday.
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 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway behind Matt Hall, staving off a thrilling challenge from the hard-charging Australian. Germany’s Matthias Dolderer took a strong third to win his second podium of the season. Around 20,000 spectators followed the racing action over the weekend.
It was Bonhomme’s third championship, in his 10th season after the British ace won the title 2009 and 2010. Bonhomme, who had to overcome 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 caused damage to his wing and air speed equipment. Then at the start of the Round of 8 it emerged that the air speed indicator was still not working properly and he had to return to the race airport, where it was repaired. Bonhomme returned to the sky to beat Arch and advance to the Final 4, 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.”
Hungary’s Peter Besenyei, one of the most successful pilots in the history of the race with eight career victories, announced that he was retiring from the sport he helped create in 2003. Besenyei, 59, won the title in the inaugural season in 2003.
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)