Austria's Hannes Arch was top of the time sheets on Friday in the final training session ahead of the weekend's Red Bull Air Race at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz, Germany, beating championship leader Paul Bonhomme of Britain by more than a full second.
Keeping his championship hopes alive, Arch put down a blistering time and said he is confident he can overtake Bonhomme to win the title with a victory in the season finale. Germany’s Matthias Dolderer had a penalty-marred run and ended up 14th – but would have been fourth without eight penalty seconds.
Arch had a blazing run through the 15-gate course set up in the infield of the EuroSpeedway Lausitz motor circuit, stopping the clock in 1:12.01. Bonhomme, who holds a five-point lead in the championship, was a distant second in 1:13.03. There are a maximum 13 points up for grabs this weekend and Bonhomme, the 2009 champion, needs to finish on the podium to secure his second straight title. France's Nicolas Ivanoff was third on Friday in 1:13.87 and Yoshi Muroya of Japan was a surprise fourth in 1:14.49. Britain's Nigel Lamb, who is six points behind Bonhomme and also in the title hunt, was sixth in 1:14.58 -- hurt by a two-second penalty
“We struggled a bit at the beginning of the weekend but I think we’ve found the right set-up for the airplane now,” Arch said. “We’ve made some small changes here and there to optimize the plane and it’s going pretty good. It’s good to be a second faster than Paul and a half second ahead of Nigel, so that’s good too. There are still possibilities to improve but I’m sure the other guys are going to improve too. I’m happy because we’re back on track after starting slow. We’re focused now.”
Bonhomme was critical of his set-up. He said he was feeling confident going into his fourth championship battle in the last four years. “It was alright,” he said. “I made a slight mistake with my set-up so I flew around with a little more drag than I should have. But I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen tomorrow.”
Bonhomme shrugs off pressure
Bonhomme said even though he only needs third place to win the title, he is remaining circumspect: “I’m not getting wound up. There are more important things in life. The key is not to relax too much, not to say ‘Oh, I don’t have to worry about Hannes and Nigel, I’m just going to compete against the others’ and then wait for someone like Kirby (Chambliss), or Matthias or Pete McLeod or Nicolas to put in a cheeky little 1:13 just when you’re not ready for it.”
Ivanoff and Muroya surprised a lot of people on Friday with strong performances as did Australia’s Matt Hall, who took fifth in 1:14.57. Ivanoff has found the tight track to his liking: “I like the track because I like the idea of all the turns,” he said. “It’s nice because you can choose different lines.”
Dolderer said would not let the pylon hit in the final training get him down after a strong second place in training one on Thursday. “I’m sure I’ll do better tomorrow. The week has been good so far. It’s a fantastic location here. The airplane is running really good and I’m looking forward to a good result.”
Bonhomme leads the championship with 53 points while Arch has 48 and Lamb 47. The fastest Qualifier on Saturday wins one point while the winner of Sunday’s race will win 12 points.