Insider impressions: Triple World Champion on Air Racing season opener

Courtesy of Red Bull Air Race Media Service

Commentator and former world Champion Paul Bonhomme of Great Britain works during the fourth stage of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Budapest, Hungary on July 17, 2016. –
Photographer Credit:
Daniel Grund/Red Bull Content Pool

Paul Bonhomme is the only three-time World Champion in the history of the Red Bull Air Race, and in his current role as live broadcast commentator, he stays as close to the sport as ever. Here are select highlights from his thoughts on February’s season opener in Abu Dhabi, with an eye toward April’s race in Cannes, France.

Yoshihide Muroya of Japan performs during the finals at the first round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on February 3, 2018. –
Photographer Credit:
Andreas Langreiter / Red Bull Content Pool

On defending World Champion Yoshihide Muroya (JPN, 2nd in Abu Dhabi):
“Well, he’s just brilliant, isn’t he? Yoshi has realized he likes winning and wants to do it again, so he’s acting like he’s starting from zero. Tactically he flew the perfect race, and in the Final 4 he was only 0.290s off [Michael] Goulian’s time, excellent given that he flew last.”

Michael Goulian of the United States performs during the finals at the first round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on February 3, 2018. –
Photographer Credit:
Naim Chidiac/Red Bull Content Pool

On race winner Michael Goulian (USA):
“He was on rails all week – he just got in the groove really early. His pathway to the Final 4 was stress free in the head-to-heads. Don’t get me wrong, he was flying particularly well, but I’m interested to see if Mike can keep the form when he’s in more challenging circumstances: for example, flying second in a heat after someone has posted a good time.”

On 2006 World Champion Kirby Chambliss (USA, 3rd in Abu Dhabi):
“Kirby was interesting. He was all over the place in Free Practice with loads of mistakes, but by Qualifying he was showing some consistency. His Final 4 run was off the pace… he seemed too conservative in the Vertical Turning Maneuvers, and that could be due to the DNFs [penalties] he collected earlier in the week.”

Martin Sonka of the Czech Republic performs during qualifying day at the first round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on February 2, 2018. –
Photographer Credit:
Andreas Langreiter / Red Bull Content Pool

On Martin Šonka (CZE, second overall in 2017, 4th in Abu Dhabi):
“He was slightly off the pace in Qualifying – I thought he might have had an issue with his raceplane. He got to the Final 4 and finished third, but later received a DQ [disqualification] for his ignition timing settings and was pushed to fourth. I understand the technical infringement was an innocent mistake, and that’s sad for Martin. There’s something not quite right there, whether it be the fuel mixture, or something else with the airplane. If they resolve it, he’ll come to France and fly quickly.”

 

On 2016 World Champion Matthias Dolderer (GER, 13th in Abu Dhabi):
“Talk about a rodeo ride. He was top, then bottom and then goes and wins Qualifying. He was going for a really aggressive line, and his raceplane at the end of the chicane was like an angry bee. I’ll use my golf analogy: When he won the World Championship he was relaxed, swinging smoothly. Now it seems that he’s gripping the club too tight. He’s worrying too much about the result, instead of just relaxing, flying precisely and making sure he puts the airplane in the right spot and then at the end of it all seeing if his time is good. Sometimes it’s worked, but more importantly, sometimes it doesn’t.”



On two-time overall runner-up Matt Hall (AUS, 5th in Abu Dhabi):
“Matt had issues with his new paint scheme as the C of G [Center of Gravity] moved backwards, which means the elevator feel is much lighter. This gives him a faster pitch rate and quicker onset of G than he would have been used to last year. For him it would’ve felt like going from a car without power steering to a car with power steering. He recovered from that drama quickly and flew beautifully. When he gets back in the groove he’ll be one to watch this year.”

Petr Kopfstein of the Czech Republic performs during training day at the first round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on February 1, 2018. –
Photographer Credit:
Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool

On Petr Kopfstein (CZE, 5th overall in 2017, 9th in Abu Dhabi):
“I think Petr is a dark horse – he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with. Don’t forget Abu Dhabi was only his 17th race, which means he’s done only about half an hour of actual racing, but look how he flies – in the Round of 14 Martin Šonka beat him by just 0.467s. Petr is good, he flies cleanly and will do well. He’s gone about his race business professionally and quietly improved… he’ll start winning stuff soon.”

Ben Murphy of Great Britain performs during the finals at the first round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on February 3, 2018. –
Photographer Credit:
Predrag Vuckovic/Red Bull Content Pool

On Ben Murphy (GBR, 6th in Abu Dhabi, his first World Championship race):
“Ben had a blistering result for his first race – you couldn’t ask for more. What’s obvious is that his experience from the Red Arrows and the military, in terms of systems and management, is making his team work really well together. In their first outing, they were amazing. Some teams have been together for years and aren’t functioning as well as Ben’s. Ben met Yoshi in the Round of 8, and he flew a calm run and was only 0.8s behind Yoshi’s time. For his first Master Class race, that is spectacular. Having said all of that, there will be tougher races ahead!”

On the next race in Cannes:
“The top four [from Abu Dhabi] will be fairly happy and will probably be somewhere similar in the next race. Then for the others, I think Matt will be a force to be reckoned with. François [LeVot, FRA] learned a lot and wasn’t far off the pace, which was the same for Mika [Brageot, FRA]. Ben Murphy will also have a lot to take with him to Cannes. And Matthias? We’ll just have to wait and see.”

The Red Bull Air Race World Championship makes its French debut on the Riviera in Cannes on 20-22 April 2018. For more information on tickets and all the latest, visit www.redbullairrace.com

 

About Red Bull Air Race
Created in 2003, the Red Bull Air Race World Championship has held more than 80 races around the globe. The Red Bull Air Race World Championship features the world’s best race pilots in a pure motorsport competition that combines speed, precision and skill. Using the fastest, most agile, lightweight racing planes, pilots hit speeds of 370kmh while enduring forces of up to 12G as they navigate a low-level slalom track marked by 25-meter-high, air-filled pylons. In 2014, the Challenger Cup was conceived to help the next generation of pilots develop the skills needed for potential advancement to the Master Class that vies for the World Championship.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.