No holding back for the Brits at Spielberg

Posted on: 3rd Sep 2015

British pilots Paul Bonhomme and Nigel Lamb are charging into the sixth stop of the 2015 Red Bull Air Race World Championship – Spielberg, Austria – on a high. Bonhomme is fresh off a home country triumph in Ascot, a stop where Lamb’s fifth-place finish indicated that his prior airplane handling concerns have been resolved. As Bonhomme looks to tighten his grip on the top of the World Championship leaderboard, and Lamb aims to resume the form that won him the title in 2014, Spielberg offers a technically interesting track that plays to the strengths of both pilots.?

The spectacular Alpine setting of the race this weekend at the Red Bull Ring has made it one of the highlights of the Formula One season. But as the raceplane pilots of the world’s fastest motorsport series know very well, while the valley is beautiful to behold, it can be fun – or frustrating – to fly. 

“This track is truly three-dimensional as it’s on the side of a hill with a significant altitude difference between the start gate and the chicane; and the trees and other obstacles make it as exciting as Ascot,” assessed Lamb. “Is it the most challenging track? That depends a lot on the weather and wind, because wind and turbulence can transform the most benign-looking track into an immense challenge.” 

Like Lamb and the majority of the 14 elite pilots, Bonhomme has experience contending at the series’ Spielberg debut in 2014. “I think we’ve all remembered the track here from last year,” he commented, "and we’ve probably all got our videos and have been watching them, so I think everybody will be quick from the start here.”

Between Bonhomme and Lamb, British pilots have claimed the last three consecutive Red Bull Air Race World Championships (2009 and 2010 for Bonhomme, and 2014 for Lamb upon the series’ return from hiatus). Bonhomme could make it four in a row – if he can continue to hold off the two standouts who have been jostling with him for top position all year, Matt Hall of Australia and Hannes Arch of Austria. 

With just an eight-point lead, and a 2015 race format where extended head-to-head knockout rounds add a big dash of luck to the mix, Spielberg could be pivotal for Team Bonhomme. Lamb and the Breitling Racing Team, meanwhile, are determined to “claw their way” up from their present fifth overall.

For both teams, the first step is Spielberg, where neither pilot has ever stood atop the prestigious motorsport podium. (Lamb came oh-so-close last year in second place, while Bonhomme finished fifth.) With teams that are just as talented as their pilots, either Brit could be showered with champagne on Sunday before the World Championship heads to the United States for the final two races of the season.

?The action in Austria kicks off in with Qualifying on Saturday, September 5, followed by Race Day on Sunday.

In the Red Bull Air Race, which is the official world championship of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the world's top pilots hit speeds of 370 kmh while enduring forces of up to 10G as they navigate a low-level slalom track marked by 25-meter-high, air-filled pylons.


WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1. Paul Bonhomme (GBR) 46 points, 2. Matt Hall (AUS) 38, 3. Hannes Arch (AUT) 30, 4. Martin Sonka (CZE) 18, 5. Nigel Lamb (GBR) 17, 6. Pete





McLeod (CAN) 14, 7. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 12, 8. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 11, 9. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 11, 10. Michael Goulian (USA) 8, 11. Peter Besenyei (HUN) 8, 12. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 2, 13. Juan Velarde (ESP), 14. Francois Le Vot (FRA)