The desert heat shimmering on the runway at a staggering 37 degrees was the scene to put both man and machine through their paces for the season qualification opener of the Red Bull Air Race.
The new single point up for grabs for first place in qualification meant that competitors were on the charge from the start.
Arch showed why he was the World Champion by once again beating Bonhomme to the finish line, but neither will be able to rest tomorrow with Lamb and Ivanoff posting fantastic times.
Qualification Round Up:
Qualification 1 started with a phenomenal run by Ivanoff. The Frenchman finished with a fantastic 1:26.04 but was penalized four seconds for flying high and incorrect level flying. His overall time of 1:30.04 still set a standard for the session and left the entire pack chasing wildly.
Lamb finished second, Bonhomme third and Arch only managed a fourth on his first run out.
Rookie Dolderer’s obvious excitement and definite nerves saw him disqualified before
he even started as he exceeded the maximum track entry speed of 370.4kph.
His Edge 540 clocked up a speedy 371kph when crossing the start line, which at 0.6kph over the limit was only a gnat’s whisker over and extremely unlucky.
Rookie Hall put in an impressive first run being placed tenth. He is clearly talented and certainly above average. He will surely be a massive cause for concern for the veterans he continues to trump.
Qualification 2 was stooped with excitement as the times constantly changed while the field settled who was the best of the day.
Arch stole the first place point up for grabs from Bonhomme while Lamb seemed to crumble under the pressure. Touching a gate, he slowed significantly qualifying a disappointing forth.
Ivanoff once again set a magnificent time and would almost certainly have been top for the day with 1:24.3, almost 2 seconds faster than Arch’s best time, had he not received penalties for touching gate 11.
Goulian’s “Under Investigation” status from Qualification 1 sent the rumour mill into overdrive.
Initially, the start times for Goulian and MacLean for the first session of the day were not displayed, suggesting a timing system problem. MacLean’s time was later shown, Goulian’s was not.
At 16:41 the Red Bull Live Update feed released the following: “Goulian said he was penalised because the cable from the electronic flight information system (EFIS), which transmits data back to race control, was not connected. He said the cause of the problem is still being studied.”
Data was still being received from the aircraft and continued to update the timing boards raising some serious questions.
The connection point for EFIS equipment in Aerobatic or Race Aircraft is usually
clipped or screwed into position as it is exposed to serious g-forces.
An investigation into the incident is must for such a fundamental error. At time of publication, Red Bull Air Race had not made a more official statement to explain the details behind this incident, or why live data was still available if the system was, as stated, unplugged.
The top penalty scorers of the day were Dell, Muroya and Ivanoff. All squared up with a total of 10 seconds in penalties each for all qualification sessions. Ivanoff proving that penalties are not the whole story as he clearly has a much faster handle on his Edge 540 still managing an impressive third place final qualification.
The most significant information to come from today’s flying was the timing data which, for the first time provides us with a more detailed comparison between the MXS and the Edge 540.
The track entry speeds for both aircraft types varies significantly dependant on the pilot. The faster the aircraft enters the track seems to make no amelioration to the speed at which it exits the track.
Lamb, MacLean and Besenyei entered the track faster on their second runs and all clocked up penalties indicating that entering this track slower is perhaps better. It is interesting to note that Besenyei and MacLean set the highest entry speeds into the track during qualification.
The average course exit speed for all MXS aircraft was 298.6kph in comparison to the Edge 540 which managed an average of 272.06kph. This indicates that the MXS has much more acceleration in this track.
Clearly each track will bring with it differences but the MXS initially appears to
be slicker. Edge pilots must be wondering if all their winter development was worthwhile and what in particular Ivanoff has done to his?
The flying ace of the day goes to rookie Matt Hall who finished with an impressive fifth place matching Arch's 2008 qualification result for the same race. The young Australian has flown better than seven veterans and all three other rookies.
The Wild card stage starts tomorrow at 14:00 local time. Dell and Goulian will both be hoping to recover from their disastrous first qualification session.