The much-anticipated first race of the Red Bull Air Race World Championships in Abu Dhabi climaxed with the current champion Hannes Arch brilliantly snatching the win from British hopeful Paul Bonhomme.
Wild Card Summation
The day of racing began with the new “Wild Card” race. The "Bottom Five" of qualification are given a second chance to enter the top twelve and possibly progress further to the super eights. Spectators are also given the opportunity to see all pilots fly on race day as opposed to the 2007 season format.
After Goulian’s disastrous qualification, which saw the American disqualified for the second session of qualification due to an unplugged antenna, this was just the opportunity he needed. Unfortunately, the seemingly harsh punishment seemed to have taken its toll and he finished in fourteenth place.
The wild card saw rookie Dolderer show a great deal of maturity by learning from his mistakes. The German slowed down, putting in a convincing clean lap to finish ahead of the Muroya, Goulian and McLeod and into the Top 12.
Dell somewhat redeemed himself by entering the Top 12 in position 11. The winter improvements on his aircraft have done little to prevent his consistent penalties for being too high while racing. No doubt this team will be thinking seriously whether they are racing material.
The Top 12
Dell’s redemption was short lived as the South African ended in a disheartening twelfth spot being overtaken by rookie Dolderer who did a great job to jump into eleventh place overall.
Besenyei and Chambliss ended the day in tenth and ninth respectively. The two veterans will need to do some serious analysis as to why they are not able to match the pace of those ahead.
Besenyei’s decision to once again change his aircraft at a very late stage may have been a fundamental error as the Hungarian struggles to grow accustomed to the MXS.
Chambliss needs to rethink his modifications and possibly focus on weight reduction. The American is a very tall man and he, more than most, needs to ensure his aircraft is light.
Bonhomme flew a magnificent 1:25.06 and jumped into top spot ahead of Arch, Rakhmanin and Lamb making up the top four going into the Super 8’s.
Rakhmanin gave a glimpse of his true potential as the two times World Aerobatic Champion. His conversion to air racing has not been easy, but undoubtedly with a new and powerful machine under him, there is more to come from this brilliant Russian.
Ivanoff did a staggering 1:23.55 but was penalised in Gate 3 for “Incorrect Level Flight”. Once the Frenchman becomes more acquainted with his new Edge, there is not doubt he will be a real contender for this season. As it stands, there is no doubt that the rest of the field will have their eye on him to ensure that they are not caught napping in his trailing smoke.
MacLean, Hall and Mangold took up position in fifth, sixth and seventh respectively.
Ivanoff just snuck into position eight after accumulating eight penalty points.
Hall showed he was not resting on his laurels when he jumped ahead of the veterans and ended in a magnificent fifth for his first race out. Certainly it will not be long before this unassuming Australian is battling it out amongst the top four. One can believe that this rookie is lucky to have the MXS beneath him but when you consider that this is true for Besenyei (tenth), it is certain that he has talent too.
MacLean needs to take heed of the rookies and learn from his mistakes. The passionate Spaniard’s aggressive flying style almost always results in penalties, which the veteran can ill afford. His flying style, which has been likened to Mangold, is clearly not working for him and he ended the day in eighth.
Ivanoff once again delivered a marvellous first with an impressive 1:26.0 even with a 2 second penalty.
Bonhomme and Lamb took second and third while Arch only managed a fourth due to an incorrect knife-edge in Gate 12 and a two second penalty.
Interestingly the MXS’s make up a third of the field but in the Super 8’s they made up half of the field. Is this a sign of things to come?
The Final 4 race format is certainly more enjoyable to last years Top 2 and Third Place fly off. The race is less confusing to follow and provides a more interesting event.
Arch marvellously just edged ahead of Bonhomme by 0.89 of a second and took the 12 points for the win. Ivanoff jumped convincingly into third place and knocked veteran Lamb into a disappointing forth position after an error gained him a 2 second penalty.
Arch will be delight that his modifications have been successful. No doubt this will have lifted a great deal of pressure from the team, allowing them to focus more on the racing and a working smoke system.
The American’s Goulian, Mangold and Chambliss will need to do some serious work if they are to make it into any form of contention this season. Goulian’s stepped leading edge is interesting and no doubt he will be heading to San Diego early to get some serious practice and put the race of Abu Dhabi firmly behind him.
Interestingly, Team Bonhomme have announced that they will be executing a weight reduction exercise prior to the race in San Diego. Perhaps this is an admission of doing too many modifications during the winter proving that less is more.
Hall, Ivanoff and Rakhmanin are the racers to watch in San Diego.
San Diego has an interesting track and we look forward to the next race!