Fastest airplane at world’s fastest motorsport declared


142397948658Paul Bonhomme of the UK crossed the finishing gate in 57.787 seconds in the Red Bull Air Race, only 0.84 of a second faster than the second place.

The last airplane to fly in the Red Bull Air Race was the one that won the first race of the 2015 world championship season. Paul Bonhomme of the UK crossed the finishing gate in 57.787 seconds, only 0.84 of a second faster than the second place.

Bonhomme, who beat last year’s world champion Nigel Lamb in the earlier Round of 8 to qualify for the final Round of 4 racing pilots, has now won a record four times at the Red Bull Air Race in Abu Dhabi. “I think other teams are slow coming out of the box when the season starts,” he said as soon as he landed after the race.

For the eighth time in the Red Bull Air Race’s history, which was initiated in 2003, the season started in Abu Dhabi. Seven more races being planned before the end of October in various cities around the world.

Hundreds of people gathered at the beaches along the Western end of the city’s Corniche to watch the fastest motorsport on the planet on Saturday.

A giant screen was set up for close-up viewing, as these planes, which are able to tolerate 10 times the force of gravity, switch from horizontal to vertical flying in fractions of a second.

The race started at 2pm with the Round of 14, when teams of two pilots went head to head, the fastest one moving on to the next Round of 8, joined by the fastest loser, which, in this round, was the former world champion Nigel Lamb of the UK.

“I don’t know anything about this race or the pilots; I’m just learning about it as it goes along,” said Khaled Obaid, an Egyptian resident in Abu Dhabi, who came to see the race with friends. “It’s quite a spectacular sport, and I enjoy the adrenaline and the atmosphere in general. My favourite part is when they hit the pylons.”

There were nine gates and obstacles made of four metre-high inflatable pylons on the circular race course that pilots had to fly through. In the first Rounds of 14 and eight, some of these pylons were barely touched by the wings of the aircrafts, but was enough for them to burst out and collapse. As soon as that happened, speedboats rushed to the damaged pylon, zipped off the damaged section and zipped in a new one.

Base camp

The ‘base camp’ was at Al Bateen Airport, eight kilometres from Corniche, where each pilot took off.

Since they only fly at 10, maximum 15 metres above water during the race, each pilot tested his plane around Al Bateen Airport at high altitude, making sure there are no technical issues.

American pilot Kirby Chambliss lost his canopy, which was recovered and caused no damage to third parties. Kirby himself landed safely at Al Bateen Airport, but he suffered minor scratches and bruises on his nose and his left eye, so he had to withdraw from the race.

Lamb also suffered technical issues with his aircraft. His spats were damaged just before the Round of eight, forcing his technician to remove them, and this affected the aerodynamics of the aircraft. As a result, he finished the race in 59.576 seconds, putting him in the fifth place.

Australian Matt Hall, who never won a Red Bull race, came very close this time, but still finishing second at 57.871seconds.

“I’m happy to be on the podium, but still kind of frustrated to come just 800 of a second from the first place, which is just about a metre or so of the aircraft length,” he said, smiling.


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