The Friday of the event didn’t bode well for the weekend’s racing with the weather curtailing all chances of practice runs for the pilots, and indeed threatening their chances at even arriving at the location. A small break in the rain and low cloud did finally allow for them to land and for a single run through the course by Mike Mangold in one of the the Challenger aircraft, but to all intents and purposes the day was a wash out.
Thankfully the weekend did improve, and the Saturday saw the teams practice in the morning and then carry out their qualifying runs.
With Bonhomme taking ‘pole’ the scene was set for an exciting Sunday of racing, with hopes high for a home win.
Britain’s Paul Bonhomme was crowned the winner of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship stop at the famous Ascot Racecourse, flying brilliantly under pressure in the world’s fastest motorsport series. The victory was Bonhomme’s third this season and second straight win at Ascot to the delight of more than 40,000 home fans.
Bonhomme’s final run was flawless and he stopped the clock in 1:06.416 seconds. Australia’s Matt Hall took second place in a time of 1:09.024 while Yoshihide Muroya got his first podium of the season with third.
With the hard-fought victory in the Final 4, Bonhomme picked up 12 points to widen his lead at the top of the overall standings to eight points (46) ahead of Hall (38 points) in second going into the final three races. Reigning World Champion Nigel Lamb of Britain, who last year finished second at the race over the historic Ascot Racecourse, finished back in 5th place, a result that destroyed his chances of defending his title.
“It was a hard day at the office but today was great fun – I enjoyed that,” said Bonhomme after hitting speeds of near 370kph on the track that featured a standing start in front of the grandstands. “All I can say is this was due to teamwork, teamwork, teamwork. I’m only the driver. I just point the plane in the right direction.”
It was the second time the Red Bull Air Race was staged in Ascot, just west of London, that has quickly become one of the most attractive racing locations on the calendar and a favourite with the pilots.
Austria’s Hannes Arch, who struggled in the training session and was last in Qualifying on Saturday, finished a disappointing eighth after winning the last two races in Budapest and Rovinj, Croatia. Arch had a great run in the Round of 12, just beating Bonhomme. But Bonhomme was the “fastest loser” and advanced to the Round of 8. Arch was unable to get his engine started before the Round of 8 and was forced to retire. “It’s frustrating if you can’t race but that’s life,” said Arch, who slipped to third overall with 30 points.’
Paul Bonhomme went on to win the 2015 title, before announcing his retirement from the sport.