Competitive, quick, smooth, and witty can all easily describe the British ace who has a monkey on his back: two second-places in the championship in a row and this happening when it was looking certain that he would win it all.
Still, Paul Bonhomme does have an interesting paradox: he has won more races—a very impressive nine—in his career than his current rival, Hannes Arch, who only has three races under his belt. He has an equal number of wins with his 2007 rival Mike Mangold and is a legend-in-the-making in the Red Bull Air Race.
2007 was supposed to be Bonhomme's finest hour.
The Brit was on the verge of ending the American domination which Mike Mangold and Kirby Chambliss had over the rest of the field, and it was won by the former over Bonhomme on equal points, but countback favoured the American.
With the mistakes of 2007 behind him and ready to win it this time, Bonhomme in 2008 had a very dominant first half to the season, winning three of the first four races—his lowest position being a second place at the third round in Detroit. Bonhomme looked untouchable and it seemed like he would run away with the season and a well-deserved first championship.
However, once the Air Race returned to his home turf in London, the 2008 season fell apart. Bonhomme, who was often very smooth and cool in his flying made some errors in the race including a pylon hit and had to pull out. The home crowd was devastated to see their man out.
The next round in Budapest was a small consolation as he took a third place but his rival, Hannes Arch, took his maiden win.
Porto could have been Bonhomme's, but an over-G moment disqualified him from the Super Eight round in the race and an incorrect level added insult to injury as the Briton left Portugal with no points to his name, and a full complement for Arch as he took his second career win.
In the final round in Australia, Bonhomme returned to form but it was too little, too late as Arch took his first championship and the Briton had to settle for second place—again!
In 2009, Bonhomme appears to be playing the consistency card and it shows as he is only one point behind Arch, even though the Austrian has won the qualifying round twice. Still, with Budapest up ahead, the Briton has never won it, but has stood on the podium four times. Will he win it this time?
As Bonhomme talked with Bleacher Report in the run-up to Budapest, he reveals that its going to be more of the same from Team 55 but I'll let him do the talking!
Sheiban Shakeri: The qualifying round appears to have been your biggest weakness so far this season. Was there any sort of training on your part or modification done on the Edge in order to make it able to get maximum points for Budapest?
Paul Bonhomme: It’s interesting that you describe my three second places in qualifying as a weakness…if that is all I have to be worried about then I reckon I should be happy. I was pleased that the one point in the Q round went to Kirby (Chambliss) in Windsor and not Hannes (Arch) or Nicolas (Ivanoff) but it would have been better if we’d nabbed it ourselves! As for improvements, we’ve been looking at the engine with a view to improve it in the future but apart from general maintenance we have not done any major work.
SS: You have been on the podium in Budapest four times but never once have you stood on the top step. Does the track not suit your style or has it been a case of bad luck?
PB: So far we have had no bad luck in Budapest and in fact as Hannes (Arch) proved last year, you don’t need to be on the top step all the time to do well overall. As for the track, it’s right up my street and it’s a privilege to fly in the centre of Budapest city.
SS: Finally, given the talk of technical modifications, weight, and engine power from almost all the teams, how would you rate your chances of making the third time a charm for the championship? Is there an ace up your sleeve?
PB: We’re taking each race as it comes and we’ve been gently tweaking as the year has progressed…we have no major plans or big changes planned.
With a lot invested this time around, will the Bonhomme finally make it onto the top step of the podium in Budapest? Can he become the first Englishman to win the championship? Only time will tell as the Red Bull Air Race makes it triumphant return to Europe.
Special thanks to Nigel Warren, Team 55, and Paul Bonhomme for taking time out of their busy schedules to talk with us.