BARCELONA // With his title hopes in jeopardy, the world champion Hannes Arch pulled off the fastest time in qualifying to close the gap on championship leader Paul Bonhomme and set up a nail- biting final day of the Red Bull Air Race in Barcelona. Team Abu Dhabi's Austrian pilot, trailing Bonhomme by four points in the championship standings, was aiming to gain the one bonus point awarded to the fastest qualifier to close the gap before today's race.
But Arch, who was forced to change his engine on Friday and missed the entire day's practice, incurred a six-point penalty for clipping a gate and was left in 13th place after the first run. Pre-race, Arch had claimed that all the pressure was on Bonhomme, but the British pilot was coolness personified as he topped the first qualifying session with a time of 1min 22.75secs. To make matters worse for Arch, his plane was then called in for an inspection, although officials found nothing wrong with it.
Only the top 10 in qualifying are guaranteed a race slot for the final day, with the other five competing for two wild-card slots, so Arch needed to pull something out of the bag in the second session. He did, posting 1-21-06. Bonhomme could not top his first time and finished fourth. With 13 points available for first place, Arch has to realistically win today's race. Bonhomme will take the title with a third-place finish or better.
Arch was delighted. "There has been a lot of pressure on me," he said. "To get this point makes me really emotional. I can go even faster too, I was playing it safe in the second qualifying run." @Email:email@example.com