The high-stakes Red Bull Air Race World Championship duel between Australia’s Matt Hall and Britain’s Paul Bonhomme reached new heights in training on Friday ahead of the penultimate stop of the season at the Texas Motor Speedway, with the two leaders of the championship taking turns posting the fastest training times before Saturday’s Qualifying in the high-speed, low-altitude racing.
FORT WORTH, Texas (USA) – Britain’s Paul Bonhomme managed to pull out the stops in Friday’s second and final training session to post the fastest time of the day after Australia’s Matt Hall had topped the time sheets in the first training on a scorching hot Texas day. The breathtaking duel at the top of the table in training set the stage for an exciting Qualifying battle in Saturday and Sunday’s race, the seventh of eight in the 2015 Red Bull Air Race World Championship. American Kirby Chambliss posted the third-fastest training time in Friday’s important final session on the big Texas Motor Speedway track, continuing a strong run for the native of the Lone Star State, who took third place at the previous race in Spielberg, Austria.
Two-time champion Bonhomme leads the championship in the world’s fastest motorsport series with 55 points, while Hall, who loves flying in the extreme heat, is hot on his heels with 50 points – and looking to win the 12 points up for grabs for the winner of Sunday’s race, where the pilots fly at up to 370 km/h while enduring forces of up to 10g.
Hall had a brilliant first run and stopped the clock in 56.596 seconds while Bonhomme was back in third place. In the final session, Hall was again leading the field and watched as Bonhomme got hit with three penalty seconds in the first of two final training runs – rare mistakes for the British ace. But then Bonhomme was superb in the final training run and posted a time of 56.166 to edge past Hall and leave Chambliss in third place.
“Paul and I have been close for a few races now in almost every run and every session and today was no different,” said Hall, a former Royal Australian Air Force fighter pilot who believes whoever takes the most risks on the track at Gates 7 and 8 will win the race. “The pressure is definitely on both of us but I think he’s the one people expect to win. He’s done it before and he’s already doing well this week. I’m the underdog and I like it that way. We’ll just keep focusing on our next flight and rather than worry about the points standings.”
Bonhomme has been at the center of the championship battle in six straight seasons, winning two of the past five showdowns in 2009 and 2010. “It was good fun today. It was no big surprise that all the excitement happened between Gate 7 and 8,” he said in agreement with Hall. “Everybody was trying different things to see what they could get away with, but I think tomorrow the pilots that took risks today will fly more conservatively and those that flew within their limits will push harder. It will make for an interesting race on Sunday.”
Chambliss, looking to regain the form that brought him the title in 2006, is eager to win glory at his home race after getting third in Austria – his first podium since the 2010 race in New York. France’s Nicolas Ivanoff, who won the Fort Worth race last year, was a solid fourth in the final training session on Friday, just 0.911 seconds behind Bonhomme’s blistering time.
During Friday’s second training session in Fort Worth, the other American in the lineup, Michael Goulian, touched his running propeller on the ground during landing. Team Goulian is currently evaluating and analyzing the condition of the plane with a clear focus to stay in the competition.