Sacre Bleu! Nicolas Ivanoff Takes First in the Red Bull Air Race San Diego

Sheiban ShakeriSenior Analyst IMay 11, 2009

A much more beautiful day in San Diego awaited the fans, the crews, and the pilots for the second round of the Red Bull Air Race.

Nicolas Ivanoff stunned the crowds and all the fans by taking a very unexpected victory in San Diego Bay with his Edge 540, a plane that is only in its second race!

To recap though, the conditions were much more predictable than yesterday and the events went on without a hitch.


Wild Card

The wild card session began with the five slowest pilots racing for a chance to take the top two spots, the privilege of flying in the Top 12 round and a chance to compete for points.

Pete McLeod got the festivities started and set the benchmark with a 1:33.09. That's about 15 seconds slower than the optimal time, and not really an improvement on his qualifying time either.

However, McLeod has been saying that him and his team are racing a stock Edge 540 with very little if any mods to begin with.

Some consolation for the Canadian though is that he completed his first race and did not need to SCO like Abu Dhabi. McLeod's race ended here with a 15th place overall.

Alejandro Maclean was in unusual territory here because of a disqualification yesterday for going over-g, a maximum of 12 being allowed. The Spaniard put in a time of 1:24.20 and looked like a sure-fire candidate for the top two spots in the wild card.

Japanese Yoshi Muroya was the biggest surprise of this round by only being 0.03 seconds slower than Maclean, and it got him the second spot in the wild card round.

American Michael Goulian was looking for redemption from Abu Dhabi but just couldn't find it in San Diego. He set a time of 1:26.22 with two two-second penalties.

If he hadn't accrued those two penalties, he would have been nearly two seconds faster than Maclean and with one penalty, he would have been ahead of Muroya by 0.01 of a second! Goulian had to settle for 14th place overall.

Matthias Dolderer was the last pilot to go up next and was hoping to have the same luck he did in Abu Dhabi. He set a time of 1:25.25, just over a second behind Maclean and Muroya. A sombre Dolderer was left in the unlucky 13th position.

The final results for the wild card are as follows with the top two advancing to the Top 12:

  1. Alejandro Maclean (ESP) - MXS: 1:24.20
  2. Yoshi Muroya (JPN) - Edge 540: 1:24.23 (+0.03)
  3. Matthias Dolderer (GER) - Edge 540: 1:25.25 (+1.05)
  4. Michael Goulian (USA) - Edge 540: 1:26.22 (+2.02 [2 two-second penalties FTH])
  5. Pete McLeod (CAN) - Edge 540: 1:33.19 (+8.99)


Top 12

The next round was the fight for points with 12th place being the only position not getting any points. Alejandro Maclean and Yoshi Muroya, for being the top two pilots in the previous round were ready to do battle in this round.

First off was Alejandro Maclean. Maclean flew a very mediocre round and ended up with a time in the area of 1:25.39. Was the engine losing power? Was Maclean playing it too conservatively?

Next up was Muroya who set a time of 1:31.16. That was over five seconds behind Maclean and he had accrued four two-second penalties throughout his run. What happened here? Muroya was on such an amazing run the previous round, was he getting tired?

The surprise in Abu Dhabi, Matt Hall of Australia, barely made it into the Top 10 in yesterday's qualifying and flew a nice clean race in his MXS to make it a decent 1:23.51.

South African Glen Dell got the first points of his career by putting in a 1:25 flat. As a result, he has taken a solid three points. No doubt this race was a good result for him but he really has to be careful with his flying levels as he got a two-second penalty.

Hometown hero Mike Mangold had a hard time but was slightly faster than Dell. He just couldn't capitalize on the support, but made it a 1:24.55 with no penalties. Not a good result from the double world champion.

At least Mangold could be happy that he wasn't Kirby Chambliss, who was disqualified from contention as his Edge 540 went over-g. The 2009 season is not going the way the 2006 champion hoped for.

Sergey Rakhmanin just squeaks into the Super 8 round after a two-second penalty, but it's good enough for him to move on. He sets a time of 1:24.60, just 0.05 of a second behind Mangold.

Arch, Bonhomme, Besenyei, Ivanoff, and Nigel Lamb all made it into the Super 8 round as follows:

  1. Paul Bonhomme (GBR) - Edge 540: 1:18.51
  2. Hannes Arch (AUT) - Edge 540: 1:19.04 (+0.53)
  3. Peter Besenyei (HUN) - MXS: 1:19.44 (+0.93)
  4. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) - Edge 540: 1:21.34 (+2.83)
  5. Nigel Lamb (GBR) - MXS: 1:21.81 (+3.3)
  6. Matt Hall (AUS) - MXS: 1:23.51 (+5.0)
  7. Mike Mangold (USA) - Edge 540: 1:24.55 (+6.04)
  8. Sergey Rakhmanin (RUS) - MXS: 1:24.60 (+6.09)
  9. Glen Dell (RSA) - Edge 540: 1:25.00 (+6.49)
  10. Alejandro Maclean (ESP) - MXS: 1:25.39 (+6.88)
  11. Yoshi Muroya (JPN) - Edge 540: 1:31.16 (+12.65)
  12. Kirby Chambliss (USA) - Edge 540: DSQ


Super 8

The second-last round of the Red Bull Air Race was much tighter as Paul Bonhomme was dying to win this round and make it a hat trick in San Diego.

Sergey Rakhmanin was the first to go and set a time of 1:23.53. A one-second improvement, but it would have been three if he hadn't acquired a two-second penalty. Still, he set the standard, and there were seven other pilots who had the potential of making an error.

Matt Hall, Nigel Lamb, and Mike Mangold put in error-free performances, but they finished fifth, sixth, and seventh, respectively.

Hannes Arch and Peter Besenyei had the start/finish gates wobbling by getting too close to them, but neither of them knocked it down to accrue a six-second penalty. Close call! The final tally in the Super 8 round went as such with the bolded moving forward:

  1. Hannes Arch (AUT) - Edge 540: 1:17.73
  2. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) - Edge 540: 1:17.81 (+0.08)
  3. Paul Bonhomme (GBR) - Edge 540: 1:19.46 (+1.73)
  4. Peter Besenyei (HUN) - MXS: 1:19.70 (+1.97)
  5. Matt Hall (AUS) - MXS: 1:20.38 (+2.65)
  6. Nigel Lamb (GBR) - MXS: 1:21.00 (+3.27)
  7. Mike Mangold (USA) - Edge 540: 1:21.63 (+3.90)
  8. Sergey Rakhmanin (RUS) - MXS: 1:23.53 (+5.80 with 2 sec. penalty)


The Final Four

The final four looked like it would be Hannes Arch's. He had earlier set the track record and was ready to show the other four how it was done.

Nicolas Ivanoff set the standard by setting a new track record though! He set a time of 1:17.21 with no penalties.

A perfect flight by the Frenchman who seems to have found his groove with the Edge 540. It seems like the Extra 300SR that he flew last year just wasn't doing it for him.

Ivanoff looked to have the final sealed up with his amazing flight. If Arch or Bonhomme were to beat that, they would have to take different lines or try out something very new.

Up next was Besenyei who after a disappointing 10th in Abu Dhabi was ready to show that his new set of wings, the MXS he had acquired this year, would be up to the task.

Sadly, that wasn't meant to be. He got a two-second FTH penalty and was 3.53 seconds slower than Ivanoff. He ended up in fourth place with his 1:20.74.

Bonhomme came next in his battle royale against Arch. The Englishman shone throughout his run but was never fast enough to beat Ivanoff.

As he kept going, the distance between himself and Ivanoff just widened. He ended up 1.11 seconds behind Ivanoff with a time of 1:18.32. However, he had set a personal best time.

Finally, the man that everyone was waiting for - Hannes Arch - took to the track above San Diego Bay. He starts well but midway through his run, he makes an IKF in the quadro and gets slapped with a two-second penalty.

It all seemed to work for him but the penalty cost him dearly. He ends up 2.59 seconds behind Nicolas Ivanoff with a 1:19.80 and third place. Hitting a bird during his run did not help his cause one bit!

Nicolas Ivanoff won the 2009 San Diego Red Bull Air Race in style and also set the track record. Hannes Arch, the championship leader, is still three points ahead of Paul Bonhomme in the standings because of his third place plus one point in qualifying.

As it goes right now, the championship is now a three horse race with Arch taking home nine points plus one making it 10 overall, Bonhomme taking 10 points for second place and Nicolas Ivanoff taking the full complement of 12 points. The results of the Final Four are as follows:

  1. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) - Edge 540: 1:17.21 (TR)
  2. Paul Bonhomme (GBR) - Edge 540: 1:18.32 (PB) (+1.11)
  3. Hannes Arch (AUT) - Edge 540: 1:19.80 (+2.59)
  4. Peter Besenyei (HUN) - MXS: 1:20.74 (+3.74)

An amazing job from the Frenchman whose last victory was in Perth in 2007. It's been quite a while since he was on the top step of the podium, and with his new set of wings and technical support, Hannes Arch and Paul Bonhomme have realized that this championship won't be a duo but a triumvirate.

Stay tuned for June 13 and 14 when the Red Bull Air Race heads to Canada for the first time. Will Pete McLeod make Canada proud with points or more? Will an MXS take its first win? Will the Americans bounce back? We shall find out in about a month!