What Does 2009 Hold For Air Racing's Experienced Pilots? Pt. 2: Positions 5-8

Sheiban ShakeriSenior Analyst IMarch 4, 2009

For Part II of my 2008 pilot analyses for the Red Bull Air Race, I will be looking at the mid-field. This group was one where they had a combination of both good and bad luck in equal doses.

Alejandro Maclean (ESP)

  • 2008 Position: 8th (21 points)
  • 2008 Race Number: 36 (Same for 2009)
  • 2008 Aircraft: Edge 540 & MXS
  • 2009 Aircraft: MXS
  • 2008 Status: Sixth year in the Red Bull Air Race

Alejandro “Alex” Maclean had a tough 2008 in the Red Bull Air Race. After switching to an MXS in the third round in Detroit, things started to look up, but he still kept getting the short end of the stick, mainly because he was not used to the MXS and all the wonderful things it could do.

Alejandro could have had an opportunity to score quality points throughout the 2008 campaign after Detroit, but it appeared that he could only fly a good race if the weather was perfect—anything else just wouldn’t work for him.

Maclean’s best moment in 2008 came at Perth when he was within arm’s length of reaching a podium place, only to be bested by Austrian Hannes Arch in the third place flyoff. The final round appeared like Maclean was starting to become one with his plane, and perhaps we could see more breakouts for the calm Spaniard.


Nigel Lamb (GBR)

  • 2008 Position: 7th (30 points)
  • 2008 Race Number: 9 (Same for 2009)
  • 2008 Aircraft: MX2 & MXS
  • 2009 Aircraft: MXS
  • 2008 Status: Fourth year in the Red Bull Air Race

Nigel Lamb is one of the more well-known pilots in the Red Bull Air Race—due in part to the fact that his aircraft is quite an eye-catcher: a bright yellow MXS with Breitling sponsorship all over it. He has also done some stunt flying in film productions like the 2006 independent movie Flyboys.

However, Lamb has had his share of bad luck but he always took it with a grin and a chuckle. He was the first pilot in 2008 to take delivery of the new MXS and while it was boasted to be a really fast aircraft with a lot of capabilities, all that boasting went out the window with his mediocre results, including a disqualification in the third round in Detroit after flying too low in the chicane. It should be said here though that the times he was pulling in Detroit though could have stood against those of Chambliss, Bonhomme, Arch and Mangold—the top four finishers in that round.

The reasons for his inability to produce results probably had something to do with the kinks that the aircraft might have had. After all, he had been using an MX2 aircraft for a while. It is entirely possible that the new MXS had a few bugs because it was so new coming out of the box.

Lamb was finally able to come within a hair of winning the final round of the Red Bull Air Race in Perth, partly because of his ability to masterfully navigate the duo gates. He came second against countryman Paul Bonhomme, but this was still his highest ever placing and put more motivation on him to up his game for 2009.


Steve Jones (GBR)

  • 2008 Position: 6th (33 Points)
  • 2008 Race Number: 19
  • 2008 Aircraft: Edge 540
  • 2009 Aircraft: Unknown
  • 2008 Status: Sixth year in the Red Bull Air Race

Steve Jones was another of those really experienced pilots in the Red Bull Air Race since its inception in 2003. 2008 started off on the wrong foot for Jones but he improved by the time the Air Race reached the European leg of the tour by netting a third place in Rotterdam and a second place in Budapest.

Apart from that, 2008 was a pretty quiet season for Jones, but not as quiet as 2007 where he was able to win once and that was it. Steve Jones was able to take two podiums in 2008 and could have gotten a third one in Porto but lost in the third place flyoff to Mike Mangold by 0.03 seconds! To give you perspective of what 0.03 seconds looks like in the Red Bull Air Race, that is the tip of the propeller of the aircraft to just in front of the canopy.

Jones’ season was still good compared to his previous seasons by never once being out of the points, which is a credit to him.

In 2009, Steve Jones appears to be absent from the roster possibly because of retirement, but no word out on what is up with him.


Peter Besenyei (HUN)

  • 2008 Position: 5th (34 points)
  • 2008 Race Number: 4 (#5 for 2009)
  • 2008 Aircraft: Extra 300SR and Edge 540
  • 2009 Aircraft: Edge 540
  • 2008 Status: Sixth year in the Red Bull Air Race

Peter Besenyei is one of the most well known pilots of the Red Bull Air Race. In fact, he helped out in the creation of the series.

However, 2008 was a real downer for Besenyei. Never out of the top three in the final rankings, Besenyei could not even once break out onto the podium as he had done in the previous years.

In the fifth round in London, he switched over to an Edge 540 after his Extra 300SR just couldn’t perform the necessary maneuvers cleanly. His best flying was done in the second round in San Diego but had it not been for a pylon hit, he could have easily broken out on to the podium.

Could his fall from grace be a signal to retire or was it a funk that tends to happen with all great sportsmen? I guess 2009 will answer that question.

Stay tuned next week for the top four 2008 pilots—Hannes Arch, Paul Bonhomme, Kirby Chambliss and Mike Mangold—and what they should be doing to defend or even improve on their positions. Click here for Part I.