The second stop for the Red Bull Air Race is San Diego and is the home race to three pilots: Kirby Chambliss, Michael Goulian, and Mike Mangold. All of whom wanted to steal the limelight from 2008 world champion and Abu Dhabi winner Hannes Arch.
Sadly for them, that wasn't meant to be.
The two qualifying sessions were held in unpredictable weather as clouds and wind created havoc for all with every pilot having at least one penalty in some form or another. The weather also created delays for getting to Qualifying 2.
In the first round of qualifying, the winner was Paul Bonhomme who set a time of 1:21.41, 0.75 of a second faster than Arch who was slapped with a two-second incorrect-level flying (ILF) penalty.
Rookie Matt Hall of Australia, the big surprise in Abu Dhabi, finished 12th after getting a six-second gate touching (TAG) penalty. Mike Mangold was the only pilot in this round who flew a clean race but still wasn't fast enough.
The biggest surprise of Q1 was Yoshi Muroya who was almost a full second in front of Paul Bonhomme at the halfway mark of his run, but two penalties for flying too high (FTH) added four seconds to his time but gave him a respectable 10th place after what happened in Abu Dhabi.
At the bottom was Canadian Pete McLeod who was 18.7 seconds behind Paul Bonhomme! This due to a grand total of eight seconds for a TAG penalty and an incorrect knife edge (IKF).
Overall, the wind conditions were terrible in the first round of qualifying with no pilot being fully in control of the situation around them. These times are not set in stone and they will be compared against the Qualifying 2 times.
Qualifying 2 had to be delayed because of the inclement weather, but the show went on at 16:00.
For all the pilots, Q1 was a time to get acquainted with the track and the weather conditions, Q2 is when it gets serious!
Hannes Arch started off the second round and made an impression immediately - a 1:18.42 with no penalties and the course record thus far. As a result, he has taken the one championship point for getting the best time in qualifying. A lot of modifications were made to that Edge 540 and right now, he seems unstoppable!
Paul Bonhomme just couldn't beat that and was just a tad under three seconds too slow.
There was improvement from many. The biggest improvement came from Pete McLeod who managed to better his time by nearly 10 seconds after what was seen as a disastrous first qualifying session.
The biggest loser in the second round though was Yoshi Muroya who took three penalties and a TAG penalty. Alejandro Maclean pulled over-g in his MXS and was disqualified from Q2 as a result.
The highest ranked American was Kirby Chambliss who took a disappointing sixth place overall today.
South African Glen Dell took an overall 10th place today - unfamiliar territory for him and possibly the chance of getting his first points in his one-year old air racing career.
The top six for today is as follows:
- Hannes Arch (AUT) - Edge 540
- Paul Bonhomme (GBR) - Edge 540
- Peter Besenyei (HUN) - MXS
- Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) - Edge 540
- Nigel Lamb (GBR) - MXS
- Kirby Chambliss (USA) - Edge 540
The bottom five tomorrow will have a chance to fight for the top two spots and the privilege of flying in the Top 12. From there, it will be onto the Super 8 round and the Final Four who will fight it out one last time to take the win.
Can the Americans bounce back from this bad run? Can Hannes Arch make it two of two races? Will Paul Bonhomme get back into his groove or will Peter Besenyei steal the show? We shall find out when the racing begins tomorrow at 14:00 local time.
Photography Credit: Bob Martin