The capital city of the United Arab Emirates is the host for the opening round of the 2009 Red Bull Air Race. Abu Dhabi is not alien to this since they have been hosting the opening round in the premier series of air racing since 2005, when the Red Bull Air Race became a world series.
With about two hours to go until the first round of qualifying, the pilots are at the temporary runway (TRW) getting themselves ready for the punishing heat in the UAE capital—a high of 39 degrees Celsius on Friday qualifying!
Being in the cockpit is even more punishing since the typical Edge 540 or MXS that is modified for air racing only contains the bare essentials: throttle, yoke, pedals, and other electronics to keep the pilot on track. There is no room for air conditioning, and with the closed environment of the cockpit and the high g-forces pulled on the body, you’re looking at buckets of sweat for a 90-second run through the Abu Dhabi track.
The biggest surprise so far is Nigel Lamb, who topped the timesheets in practice for the second time in his Breitling-yellow MXS. Lamb was ahead of Paul Bonhomme by only 0.19 seconds—1:32.36. The record currently is 1:26.41 held by Nicolas Ivanoff, who seems to be getting the hang of his Edge 540 aircraft, set to make its debut here.
Expect Friday qualifying to be even closer as the top four—Hannes Arch, Paul Bonhomme, Kirby Chambliss, and Mike Mangold—fight it out for the fastest qualifying time. As well as the top four, Nigel Lamb has jumped into the mix, but practice times should be taken with a grain of salt.
The stage is set for the first race of the season, usually the determining factor for what the season will shape up to be.
Smoke on from Abu Dhabi!