The fight to be Red Bull Air Race world champion went down to the wire yesterday as Britain's Paul Bonhomme kept his nerve to see off a sterling challenge from Team Abu Dhabi's Hannes Arch in Barcelona.
Bonhomme clips his Arch rival's wings
BARCELONA // The fight to be Red Bull Air Race world champion went down to the wire yesterday as Britain's Paul Bonhomme kept his nerve to see off a sterling challenge from Team Abu Dhabi's Hannes Arch here in Barcelona. Arch, the 2008 world champion, trailed Bonhomme by three points before the race, meaning that, if he won, he had to hope that his rival finished fourth or below.
More than half a million spectators packed the beaches of the Catalan capital as the six-race season, which started in Abu Dhabi, came to a spectacular end. The fastest 10 pilots from Saturday's qualifying, plus the two winners of the wild card session, competed yesterday. When Arch topped the Top 12 race, with Bonhomme fourth fastest, things looked good for the Austrian. But it was a role reversal in the Super Eight stage, the second race of the day, as Bonhomme carved up the sky to set the fastest pace.
Arch, who says his heart rate slows down when he is in the air, needed all that calmness as he scraped into the Final Four race by the skin of his teeth. Flying last in the Super Eight, he incurred a two-second penalty for entering gate three at the incorrect level. However, the Austrian's pace around the rest of the course saw him beat the 2006 champion Kirby Chambliss's time by just 0.32 seconds to grab fourth place and the last spot in the final race along with British pilot Nigel Lamb, German rookie Matthias Dolderer and Bonhomme.
The final pilots are not told their times until all four have finished their runs, but when Dolderer was given a two-point penalty, the crowd sensed that it was the title was in the bag for Bonhomme. When the Briton posted 1min 22.87secs, they knew it was. Arch incurred a six-second penalty for hitting one of the gates and finished fourth to take his final points tally to 59, with Bonhomme the deserved champion with three race wins and 67 points.
Bonhomme said: "I'm delighted. It was nice to be able to put in a performance under pressure and to get the win as well." Arch, meanwhile, was a humble loser. "I gave everything. You aren't going to win if you use the brakes. Paul deserved the title." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org