In a day filled with thrills, spills and more, Hannes Arch came out on top to take the first point in the Red Bull Air Race World Series in Abu Dhabi.
Nicolas Ivanoff took the first qualifying session with an impressive time of 1:31.04 and looked untouchable, especially to the likes of Paul Bonhomme, Nigel Lamb and Hannes Arch.
The hosts even joked that Ivanoff had a jet engine attached to his Edge 540, but there was still qualifying 2 to come. Highlights from Q1 included Matthias Dolderer being disqualified for going 1 km/h over the entry speed limit, the same pylon being hit in the sharp right turn after the chicane, and of course, none of the top four pilots being able to catch Nicolas Ivanoff. It looked like he would be the underdog winner for this year.
In the second session, Ivanoff looked to be untouchable for the most part but when Hannes Arch came in, his dominance was done! Hannes Arch set the course record in Abu Dhabi with a 1:26.33, a new course record and just 0.08 of a second faster than the original course record holder, Nicolas Ivanoff!
Paul Bonhomme came second with 1:28.85. Highlights from Q2 include Matthias Dolderer being able to finish the course; Mike Mangold hitting a pylon and then being disqualified after a 'miscommunication'; and Yoshi Muroya's disqualification after flying erratically while at the same time, one of the pylons in the quadro goes out. A controversial decision.
Michael Goulian was today's biggest loser after his race computer wasn't connected to the antenna of his aircraft, which would transmit the data from his aircraft as to how many g's pulled, how fast he was going, etc. The data could still be downloaded from the aircraft computer, but the fact that it wasn't live was an issue. As a result of that, Goulian kept his qualifying time, but was disqualified from Qualifying 2. A real shame since it looked like he was getting into the groove of things.
Other highlights included Pete McLeod of Canada pulling not one, but two clean, albeit slow runs. He's using a stock Edge 540 with no modifications just yet. His team is also quite young and he hopes that the team can "grow together."
Sergey Rakhmanin had some trouble with his new MXS, accumulating a grand total of eight seconds in penalties! Still, he's in the top 10 because of Michael Goulian's punishment.
An interesting day full of thrills, spills, disappointments and celebration but as the old saying goes: it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings!
Stay tuned tomorrow as I cover raceday for the 2009 Abu Dhabi Red Bull Air Race.