Whilst the rest of the UK enjoyed hot sunny weather a bank of heavy cloud covered the east coast, creating pretty grim conditions for the ‘Shakedown’. Seen as the first chance for many bikers to get out after the winter, groups gather at locations such as the Ace Cafe in London before heading for Southend seafront. The event attracts bikes and bikers of all shapes and sizes, as the following illustrates:
Ascot opening day was full of surprises with Canada’s Pete McLeod winning the qualifying while championship leader Hannes Arch of Austria had an off day, finishing fifth. Britain’s Nigel Lamb was third and Paul Bonhomme a lowly seventh in front of a home crowd numbering 22,000.
Paul Bonhomme, the reigning Air Race World Champion said: “I think the wind changed the game hugely today. In training yesterday we had virtually no wind and suddenly we’ve got a monster wind from the west today. Down here in the Ascot bowl it feels quite calm but you go up there and you suddenly get a 25-knot wind. Picking the right line is quite difficult. We’re happy with the flying. We had two little engine setting issues, that’s a factor. We were very happy with our training time earlier. He added: “People keep asking me about the home crowd pressure, but I’m not feeling flustered. The pressure is from all the other guys going quickly. Everyone seems to have a quick run here and then a duffer. It’s going to be a completely new day tomorrow and we’ll see what happens.”
McLeod mastered the challenging course set up above the historic horse race track west of London on a bright but blustery day and posted a winning time of 1:10.698. France’s Nicolas Ivanoff was second on 1:11.585 while Lamb took third in 1:11.842. McLeod said: “I had a great time and I’m really happy with my position. I’m definitely satisfied with my performance today. I had a lot of confidence and executed my strategy. I think my first run set me up nicely for my second qualifying run. I just took some more risks on the second run, turned in a little earlier on the gates but I wanted to fly penalty free and even though I risked a bit more in the second run it worked. I know I need to work on avoiding getting a penalty for exceeding the 10g limit. I wouldn’t use the word ‘dominate’ here after qualifying because Hannes has the ability to run this track even a little bit faster. He was having a good run in Quali 2 but he just got a little rattled or something. It doesn’t get any better on qualifying day than to take first placed. I’m definitely satisfied. It’s been a good progression for me on this track, from training to qualifying.”
The 12 pilots in the world’s fastest motorsport series delighted the big qualifying day crowd, fashionably dressed as they watched from the grandstands and grass terraces, as they roared past from the first standing start in the sport’s history. The cheers were loudest for Britain’s Bonhomme, who is second in the championship behind Arch, and Lamb, who is third overall. Both put in solid runs on the undulating course filled with trees, shrubbery, ponds and other obstacles.
Also taking place on Saturday at Ascot was the Challenger Cup with pilot Halim Othman of Malaysia claiming the top step of the podium. A smiling Othman proudly held the flag of Malaysia while his national anthem played, as the 48-year-old won the first Challenger Cup podium of his career. The decorated Malaysian air display team leader and former top gun pilot in the Royal Malaysian Air Force put in a strong effort on the first track of the season over land instead of water to jump from last place in the standings to the top six.
The Challenger Cup is a new element of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship, which gives the next generation of promising pilots the chance to develop their low-altitude flying skills under racing conditions.
“I’m very happy – I didn’t really expect this,” he said after congratulating his fellow podium finishers, England’s Tom Bennet in second, who got a rousing cheer from the Ascot crowd, and Claudius Spiegel of Germany in third. The Challenger Cup contenders will have their next opportunity to earn points when the Red Bull Air Race comes to Fort Worth, Texas, in the United States in September.
The season-opening airshow at the old RAF base in Oxfordshire (now Dalton Barracks) is always an incredible achievement by the small volunteer team, and held in aid of the Thames Valley & Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust. The 2014 event suffered slightly from a few cancellations, but still managed to deliver a great show. The following is a pictorial record of the weekend, including the practices and arrivals on the Saturday 3 May and that evening’s night-shoot, which itself generated a very a welcome boost to the charity’s total.
First run on 29 March 1981, this 34th Marathon saw the separate groups of starters: Elite Women, Elite Men, Wheelchair (Men and Women), IPC, followed by the Mass Race, running the 26.2 mile distance from Greenwich to The Mall, passing many of the capital’s iconic landmarks on route. Britain’s Olympian Mo Farah was a strong contender, leading to high hopes of a home win but was inexperienced over the distance and only managed an eighth place finish. Wilson Kipsang won the Men’s race with a course record of 2.04.29. As well as being a competitive athletic race the London Marathon is also a large celebratory sporting festival with fun runners gaining sponsorship worth many millions. The event has raised over £450 million for charity since 1981 and holds the Guinness world record as the largest annual fund raising event in the world.
Seen here passing the Tower of London is eventual winner Kipsang followed by Stanley Biwott who held that second position to the tape:
Tsegaye Kebede finished third with Ayele Abshero just a second behind:
Other British finishers included Chris Thompson (eleventh), Ben Livesey (fifteenth) and Scott Overall (seventeenth):
Although seen here leading, Florence Kiplagat came home three seconds behind Edna Kiplagat (incredibly no relation!):
Track athlete Turinesh Dibaba managed a commendable third on her marathon debut:
Other top finishers included Tetyana Gamera-Shmyrko (seventh) and Ana Dulce Felix (eighth):
British athletes Amy Whitehead and Emma Stepto finished a respectable thirteenth and fourteenth:
Whilst the ‘Elite’ runners take most of the headlines, the other categories are just as competitive. First out on the track are the wheelchair racers, including:
In the Women’s race number 7 Manuela Schar managed to overtake Wakako Tsuchida to come home second and third respectively:
Highest British woman finisher was number 6 Shelly Woods:
More able bodied athletes take part under the IPC grouping, with T11-T13 visual impairment and T42-T46 amputee classes.
Gabriel Macchi (and his guide) finished fourth in the Men’s race:
Maria Paredes Rodriguez won the Women’s category:
Inspirational figure Richard Whitehead was the sole T42 category competitor, finishing in a time of 3.42.04:
Winning club runner was Steven Way of Bournmouth AC:
And then of course there are the fun runners who for many people make the event what it is: