Red Bull Air Race – Ascot Racecourse – 14-16 August 2015

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.

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Thankfully the weekend did improve, and the Saturday saw the teams practice in the morning and then carry out their qualifying runs.

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With Bonhomme taking ‘pole’ the scene was set for an exciting Sunday of racing, with hopes high for a home win.

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Red Bull:’

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.’

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Paul Bonhomme went on to win the 2015 title, before announcing his retirement from the sport.

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Red Bull Air Race – Ascot – Sunday 17 August 2014

British pilots Paul Bonhomme and Nigel Lamb stormed to a double victory on a wind-swept Sunday at Ascot Racecourse to win their home round of the Red Bull Air Race and turn the championship into a three-way battle, sending a sell-out home crowd of 29,000 spectators into a frenzy with thrilling performances in challenging conditions. It was the 15th career victory for Bonhomme in his 55th race and also second win of the season worth 12 championship points that helped him cut the world championship lead of Hannes Arch from 13 to just two points. There were three races left in the eight-stop season, which would finish with Nigel Lamb taking the championship. The Austrian finished a distant eighth on Sunday which would prove to be a major factor in the title race. Nicolas Ivanoff of France got his first podium since 2009 by taking third place with a time of 1:11.884.

Bonhomme, who also wears race number 55, won the Ascot race with its first-ever standing start with a flawless performance despite difficult and changing English winds that gusted up to 30 knots and caused many pilots problems. The spectators in the capacity crowd were on their feet watching the spine-tingling action from the grandstand and grassy terraces and they roared their approval when Bonhomme stopped the clock in the Final Four with a sensational time of 1:11.579. Lamb, celebrating his 58th birthday, was a close second and got his third straight podium with a sterling time of 1:11.750, which was good enough for 10 points that also put him into the thick of the championship battle with 35 points overall.

“I think this has to be the greatest escape yet – it’s a great win,” said Bonhomme, who had a dismal performance in Qualifying on Saturday and was nearly eliminated in the first round of 12 on Sunday when he was beaten by Germany’s Matthias Dolderer, who finished fourth overall on Sunday. “The British crowd just love aviation. I couldn’t have wished for a better result.”

It was a bitter day for Arch, who saw his 13-point lead over Bonhomme melt away when he was knocked out in the Super 8 round due to penalties on the windy course, but also for Pete McLeod. The Canadian had dominated Qualifying on Saturday to win pole position but was knocked out in the first round on Sunday and ended up 10th, collecting a penalty with a gate hit.
Results: 1. Paul Bonhomme (GBR), 2. Nigel Lamb (GBR), 3. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA), 4. Mathias Dolderer (GER), 5. Matt Hall (AUS), 6. Yoshihide Muroya, (JPN), 7. Peter Besenyei (HUN), 8. Hannes Arch (AUT), 9. Martin Sonka (CZE), 10. Kirby Chambliss (USA), 11. Pete McLeod (CAN), 12. Michael Goulian (USA).

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