Austria’s Hannes Arch won his third straight race in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship with a stirring performance in Windsor on Sunday, bouncing back with an emphatic victory in Canada just two days after suffering one of the worst pylon hits of his career. Britain’s Paul Bonhomme took a close second in the difficult track that straddles the Canada-U.S. border over the Detroit River, his 11th straight podium, while American Kirby Chambliss made the top 3 for the first time this year with third place. Canada’s Pete McLeod was a disappointing ninth in front of his home crowd.
Arch and Bonhomme were locked in another classic duel on a cool and overcast day in front of a huge crowd of 110,000 watching from Windsor and Detroit with about 160,000 spectators in attendance for the two days of high-speed, low-altitude racing. Arch, the 2008 World Champion, saved his best for last and shattered the track record with a time of 1:05:96 in the final.
Bonhomme, the reigning champion, put up a gallant effort to try to beat Arch. The British ace was leading by a fraction of a second after the first of four intervals through the 5-kilometre long race track but couldn’t maintain the lead and ended up behind Arch in 1:06:59, just 0.63 seconds off the pace. Chambliss, looking forward to more glory in his home race in New York in two weeks, was 3.03 seconds behind the Austrian in 1:08:99. Britain’s Nigel Lamb came fourth in 1:13:34 after hitting a pylon in the final.
“I’m really happy to win the race after this difficult week,” said Arch, who had a heavy pylon hit in training on Friday that damaged his plane and left him visibly shaken. “The team stayed behind me all the way. We tried to fix our problems. You need to have a strong team and we’ve got that. I just tried to stay calm and let the others make mistakes. I’m elated right now.”
Arch’s close call came just 24 hours before another dramatic turn of events for Australia’s Matt Hall.
The plane of the former Royal Australian Air Force fighter pilot suffered an aerodynamic wing stall in a tight turn on the windswept track, causing it to dip towards the Detroit River. Hall’s wings and right wheel splashed off the top of the water but he was able to quickly regain control of the MXS-R and return safely to the Race Airport.
Bonhomme, who is still leading the championship with 41 points to Arch’s 39, said he was disappointed to lose to his great rival from Austria but added he was delighted to be in the thick of such a tense battle in Windsor.
“I don’t know about you guys but I think that was a brilliant afternoon of racing,” said Bonhomme. “It was fantastic. Everyone raised their game. It was close for all of us. We’re sad we didn’t get the win but it was a great race. It’s going to be exciting right down to the end of the season.”
2006 World Champion Chambliss, now on 26 points overall, moved up a notch ahead of Hall to fourth place in the championship. The pilot from Arizona, who won the race on the same track in 2008 and also took third here last year, said he wanted to win the next race in his home country on 19 and 20 June. “If we could win the race in New York it would be awesome,” said Chambliss.