As the Race Airport comes alive ahead of today’s first race of the 2010 Red Bull Air Race World Championship, defending champ Paul Bonhomme was trying to forget yesterday’s surprising third place finish. Opposite him, Austrian pilot Hannes Arch was battling his own issues despite securing the first point in the championship yesterday.
The Team Abu Dhabi pilot was concentrating on clearing his mind of any extra psychological pressure that could affect his performance in the track later.
“I know I will leave here with at the very least one point but the race is now on and there are 14 other guys who want to kick my ass,” he stated. “I need to work on the turning manoeuvre; that’s where I lost time against Paul. The airplane stalls because of the heat and you can fall behind. I don’t want to risk that so I’m always a little bit cautious there. I think I can get more there today and there are some other parts in the track but that all involves more risk and I don’t want to do that.”
With a 1:12:78 clean run putting the Austrian pilot in pole position for today’s race – and more importantly, giving him the single point up for grabs for taking that spot – he was clearly pleased to make a positive start in his title challenge.
Across the tarmac, the British defending champion was keeping a low profile in his hangar as the countdown began ahead of the race. “My real concern yesterday was that everybody had been ‘blagging it’ until Qualifying and keeping their real performances for then,” said Bonhomme, who blew his chances of getting the single point with a shocker of a second run where he hit a gate. “I thought maybe they’d all push the ‘magic button’ in terms of horsepower.”
The usually mild mannered pilot was clearly upset to have lost it in the second run yesterday but remained optimistic that he could return to form today. “Hannes has already said that he’s going to have his work cut out this year,” added Bonhomme, saying the battle wasn’t over just yet. “My net times were quicker than his yesterday.”
With a 1:14:45 posted in his first Qualifying run, the Brit was just able to hang on in the top three, behind Nigel Lamb from Team Breitling who secured a second place with an astounding performance in the track.
“My strategy for the day was good,” said Lamb about his encouraging result. “You can throw it all away if you don’t get it right on gate 3. It’s not a secret but you have to get it right going into the gate and also how you leave it. I’m looking at the raw times and analysing where I can shave some time off. I was making mistakes two days ago which I’ve sorted out now.”
Snapping away at the heels of the championship’s most aggressive pilot, Lamb’s enthusiasm about his result was tempered with the reality of today’s task. “We didn’t know before what Hannes had under the cowlings but now we do… and it’s a lot,” he added.