Austrian ace Hannes Arch won the Red Bull Air Race in Budapest today, claiming his first-ever victory, in only his second season. Britain’s Steve Jones was second while compatriot Paul Bonhomme, the current leader, was third after uncharacteristically making an error in the semi-finals. The result means Arch is now in second place in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship with three more races to go.
“It is just overwhelming, an amazing feeling,” said an elated Arch, who has had a stellar rise from rookie last year to one of this year’s championship contenders. “I couldn’t believe it. You have to stay focused right until the very end and now I am just really happy.” Arch also had the fastest time of the day with 1:03.34 in the semi-finals.
Some 600,000 spectators lined the banks of the River Danube on Wednesday, a Hungarian national holiday, to watch the race under clear blue sunny skies.
The race in Budapest, the sixth of the season, was full of surprises. Mike Mangold finished fourth overall while local hero Peter Besenyei finished fifth, despite a last-minute operation to install a new engine in an effort to increase his speed.
The biggest blow was dealt to 2006 World Champion, American Kirby Chambliss, who in a dramatic reversal of fortune failed to qualify for the Super Eights. He finished last in the Point One competition after he hit one of the pylons and was penalised for Incorrect Level Flying incurring a total of 13 penalty seconds. That capped off a disastrous week for the American and puts his hopes of winning the championship this year in jeopardy.
Bonhomme was putting on a brave face after picking up a three-second penalty for Incorrect Knife Flying finishing third overall. “I am annoyed that the fastest time that I posted was in the last round when I was competing for third place and not before,” said Bonhomme. “I also made a mistake earlier on that was completely avoidable.”
“It has been a tight competition all summer but I am hoping that this will now heap some pressure on Hannes,” he said. “But I have to say that he is flying beautifully at the moment.”
After Budapest, Bonhomme leads the World Championship with 45 points while Arch is second followed by Chambliss. The next race is in Porto, Portugal on 6th and 7th September followed by two further races in Spain and Australia.