Porto is another one of those beautiful and scenic races in the Red Bull Air Race World Series. The course gives more of a drag race feeling than any sort of technical track that was experienced earlier this year like Abu Dhabi, San Diego, Windsor, or Budapest.
For this edition of Correspondent's Thoughts, I have too many thoughts ahead of the upcoming race in Porto but I have taken the three most important.
Arch vs. Bonhomme at the site of where the lead changed in 2008
The first train of thought about the upcoming race concerns the championship. We have a straight fight coming up between Paul Bonhomme and Hannes Arch with the margin being only a single solitary point.
The Briton has been the most consistent pilot this season with three second places and a first while the Austrian has never been in the same position twice even though he was able to win the first two qualifying sessions of the season and a point in each.
Now, why is this being brought up? It is quite simple: everything changed in Porto in 2008. If we rewind by 12 months, Bonhomme was the man to beat while Arch was quickly learning the ropes of the sport in only his sophomore year.
In Porto, Bonhomme went over-G during qualifying, was disqualified from the Super Eight round and had to compete in the One Point round. He made an error, took a penalty and walked away pointless for the first time that season.
To rub salt into those wounds, he was previously tied in terms of points with Arch, but was ahead based on the virtue that he had won three races while Arch only had one and now that he wasn't in contention, he could not compete in the Final Four and the Austrian took the win.
Bonhomme needed a miracle to win the championship. He would have to hope that Arch could not qualify in the Top Eight in the next and final round in Australia. We all know what happened afterwards...
So, can the Brit shake off the demons of the past here in Portugal and show Arch how it is done, or will Arch give Bonhomme a run for his money? Will fortune go the other way for Arch here?
What's Up With the MXS?
Nigel Lamb had one of the best starts to his season but it all went for nought. Alejandro Maclean wasn't doing too badly in Abu Dhabi and was even optimistic of his aircraft. Sergey Rakhmanin was consistently in the points with his new equipment but slipped down to last in Budapest.
Matt Hall still is the top-performing rookie but has slipped in the past two races from fifth place in the first two rounds down to seventh in the last two. Peter Besenyei was only able to once make it into the Final Four in San Diego but has had to languish the rest of the season.
So what do all these pilots have in common? Their MXS aircraft appear to have been letting them down.
Now, could this be because of human errors such as gate-touches or could it be that the other pilots and their Edge 540 aircraft have an advantage in terms of agility for "river" courses?
Is the MXS perhaps too advanced for the European tracks? Is the development of the Edge easier because it is more tried and true whereas the MXS is more experimental since it has only been in the Air Race for a season?
I would like to hear your comments on this matter.
This is said because the MXS was in the Final Four twice in the first three races and I suspect had Lamb not need to SCO in Windsor, he might have even been able to participate in the final round of the race.
Can Nicolas Ivanoff Bounce Back?
His passion is flying and the first two races this season, he looked like a sure candidate for the championship and could mix things up with Bonhomme and Arch. With a brand new and competitive Edge 540—an upgrade from his old Extra 300.
He was in third place at the season opener in Abu Dhabi and won in San Diego—proof that the podium in the Emirates was no fluke.
However, that went to the wayside as the Frenchman had a bit of a hiccup in Windsor as he hit a pylon and just couldn't recover in Budapest either.
The Frenchman has been categorized as a bit of an enigma since he's blindingly quick in one race, but then nowhere to be found in the next and all with the same equipment.
Ivanoff doesn't have much of a chance at taking the championship in 2009, but if he is anything like the first two rounds, he does have the potential of influencing it between the two top men right now.
Can Ivanoff bounce back? Use the comments to express your views!
Correspondent's Thoughts is an opinion piece written by Sheiban Shakeri for Bleacher Report ahead of each Red Bull Air Race.