Pete McLeod’s day wasn’t easy. In the first round the Canadian was matched up with current World Champion Matthias Dolderer. Dolderer flew a clean line and stopped the clock at 52.984s. Pete flew as well as he could but was unable to beat the German pilot’s time. However, Pete had done enough to go through as the Fastest Loser.
Meanwhile Kirby Chambliss raced against Francois Le Vot. Kirby has been fast in Abu Dhabi and knew he could win. He was 0.237s quicker at the first split time and continued to gain time on his rival, but at Gate 10 he was given a penalty for incorrect level flying putting him out of the race. He said, “It’s unfortunate, I went out there with a good plan and my team was working well. The bad thing with this is that it really does play with your confidence, but it’s not like it’s the first time this has happened to me. I’ve won and I’ve lost before. San Diego is kind of my second home and we’re going to bring everything we’ve got.”
Michael Goulian who won yesterday’s fastest lap award during Qualifying took on Matt Hall in the first round today. The Australian flew cleanly but in his temporary racer was well off the pace. A tense moment for Mike when one of his gate passes was reviewed but relief when later it was deemed within the limits, sending him to the Round of 8.
Again a tough match up for Pete McLeod who fought his way to the podium. A US / Canada duel kicked things off in the second round with American Mike Goulian. It was a close fought battle with McLeod who said,”I made a couple of mistakes but made it all up in the last turn of the race. I’m sure it was an exciting one to watch. The wind is picking up and is more turbulent on the run in.”
It was enough to end Michael’s day and move Pete into the Final Four. Goulian said,”My goal today was to get in the Final 4 so I’m a little disappointed. I was out there going for it but I stalled at the top of the second vertical turn, which is where I think I lost it. I made some really small corrections in the track, and they would’ve cost me the time. I’m happy not only with my raceplane and my team, but also my flying. We’re on a really good trajectory and going to keep going.”
McLeod was first to fly and set the pace for the final round. He posted 54.632s and was both visibly pleased in the cockpit and gave a look of doubt that it would be enough to win.
It was then Sonka’s turn and he was 1.493s faster. Next to go was the World Champion however, Dolderer finished 0.088s slower than Sonka. That time would’ve been enough for him to finish second but he picked up a penalty for incorrect level flying and that saw him slip down the timesheet. Last through the track was Velarde who knew what he had to do if he was to get on the podium. His flight was perfect and although he couldn’t quite beat Sonka, it was fast enough to finish second leaving Pete third and on the podium for his first race of the season. He said, “It’s great; I can’t ask for a better start. It’s so competitive out there, and I wanted to pick up where left I off last season. I flew clean and disciplined which was enough. I made some mistakes, but that’s the first race of the season, mistakes are to be expected. I now want to work on being faster. Today was a good day, my team made it easy for me to go out and fly. Everyone says it’s a team effort, and it all kind of came together.”
Daniel Ryfa claimed the first win of the season. Bergér, the current Challenger Cup Champion was second and taking the final spot on the podium was Melanie Astles. Former RAF Red Arrow lead pilot Ben Murphy just missed out on a podium finish and was disappointed with his run, commenting that his raceplane felt sluggish out in the track. Kevin Coleman has been struggling with speed and could only manage a fifth place finish; he’ll be looking how to improve in San Diego.Daniel. Luke Czepiela was flying very cleanly, but in his attempt to post a competitive time he clipped the pylon at the penultimate gate, putting an end to his chance of winning. New Challenger Class pilot Baptiste Vignes had the unenviable task of flying first in the race. The Frenchman picked up a two second penalty for an incorrect level at Gate 7, but he can be pleased with his performance in his debut race.
Kevin said, “The track was a little different today, and I haven’t been quick all week. I’m disappointed, but hoping we can collect some points here. I feel like I flew pretty well, but it just wasn’t my week, I’ve been chasing time and it’s not worked.”
The Red Bull Air Race World Series moves next to San Diego, USA April 15 – 16.
Photo Credits: Red Bull Air Races