“All I’ve done is stuff myself up because now I’m up against Hannes tomorrow,” Bonhomme said, sounding disappointed after hitting speeds of up to 370 km/h from a static start on the obstacle-filled track set up on the infield of the racecourse that dates back to the early 1700s. “We’ve not put ourselves in a draw against a very fast guy, so that might be a huge disadvantage even though I hope it won’t be. Today’s win means absolutely nothing. The race is tomorrow”.
Hall had moved just ahead of Bonhomme with a course record time of 1:06.284 in his lightning-fast second Qualifying run before the British ace – hungry for his third win this season after winning the first two stops – stormed back into the lead, setting a new course record in the process, to move 0.261 second ahead of Hall.
The only blemish for Bonhomme, the most successful pilot in Red Bull Air Race history with 17 victories in 62 races, will be that he will now have to face off against Austria’s Hannes Arch in a tantalizing opening round head-to-head duel in Sunday’s race, the fifth of the eight-race season.
Arch, who is in second overall after winning the last two races, had an off-day, pulling out of the race track midway through his first Qualifying run and then being knocked out by engine trouble just before the start of his second Qualifying run.
“It’s annoying that I didn’t get a second run,” said Arch, who was nevertheless eager to square off against his great nemesis Bonhomme in the opening round on Sunday. “I was really excited just to go out there and fly a fast time but I didn’t get a second chance. The engine didn’t start. It’s frustrating.”
Sunday’s race, which will be broadcast on www.redbullairrace.com starting at 13:00 UTC, will be the first held over land after the first four races took place off the shores of Abu Dhabi, Chiba (Japan), Rovinj and over the Danube River in Budapest.
In the Red Bull Air Race, which is the official world championship of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the world’s top pilots endure forces of up to 10G as they navigate as precisely as possible through a low-level slalom track marked by 25-metre high air-filled pylons.
RESULTS QUALIFYING ASCOT: 1. Paul Bonhomme (GBR) 1:06.023, 2. Matt Hall (AUS) 1:06.284, 3. Martin Sonka (CZE) 1:07.172, 4. Peter Besenyei (HUN) 1:07.443, 5. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 1:07.864, 6. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 1:08.075, 7. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 1:08.136, 8. Nigel Lamb (GBR) 1:08.220, 9. Michael Goulian (USA) 1:08.438, 10. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 1:08.439, 11. François Le Vot (FRA) 1:09.280, 12. Juan Velarde (ESP) 1:09.996, 13. Pete McLeod (CAN) 1:10.631, 14. Hannes Arch (AUT) DNF