Hello everybody! We are reaching the final races of the 2009 Red Bull Air Race season and the championship is still wide open for the taking, with Paul Bonhomme and Hannes Arch neck-and-neck. Only one point divides the two pilots with two rounds left.
The Briton has a narrow one-point lead over his Austrian rival for the first time this season after a sensational second-place in Budapest, Hungary.
The winner of course was American Michael Goulian, who has been waiting for a long time to stand on the top-step of the podium.
Behind him came Paul Bonhomme who has stood on the second step three of the four times this season; and Kirby Chambliss who is having a bit of a resurgence with winning the qualifying round twice this season.
Most notably absent from the podium was Arch who took a penalty in his final run and came fourth overall; a first-time absence for the defending Austrian world champion.
The biggest improvement in Budapest was German rookie Matthias Dolderer who not only kept himself out of the Wild Card round, but was able to make it through the Top 12 and into the Super Eight round. He finished with a strong fifth place to his name.
The break appeared to hamper who took 15th and last place overall. This is the first time all season that the Russian wasn't able to take a single point.
Porto is a regular stop on the Red Bull Air Race circuit and can have surprises occur at any point.
The track is essentially a drag-race type with the pilot flying in from the direction of the Atlantic Ocean through the start/finish gate, flies through the level (blue) gate two, navigates his way through the chicane, through two more level gates where he will make a vertical turning manoeuvre, fly the track in reverse fashion and do it all again once more!
The Red Bull Air Race website has provided a very nifty Google Map of the location.
In 2008, Hannes Arch won the race in style but this is the site where Paul Bonhomme really lost the championship. After an over-G moment in qualifying and making a mistake in the Point One round, the Briton left Portugal with no points to his name.
To add insult to injury, he was level on points with Arch previously and with the Austrian winning the full complement on race day, Bonhomme needed a miracle that never transpired.
The optimal time here last year was a 1:07 set by race winner Hannes Arch so expect slightly faster times. Of course, that is only if we get beautiful and sunny days for the next weekend.
For Porto, the big question now is whether Paul Bonhomme can keep his cool against his Austrian rival and finally make some headway into the championship. In Porto, we shall find out!