Crowd of 250,000 at Red Bull Air Race season opener in Abu Dhabi
Blazing desert temperatures of 38 degrees Celsius, a new knock-out system, a worthy winner rewarded for his four flawless runs and an enthusiastic crowd of 250,000. The 2007 season opener of the Red Bull Air Race World Series had all the right ingredients and was topped off by a heart-stopping final — Hungary’s Peter Besenyei edged American Mike Mangold by a narrow 1.03-second advantage. Britain’s Paul Bonhomme took third.
The scorching desert heat made the race just above the Abu Dhabi harbour even more challenging for the 12 pilots who survived the cut for Friday’s elimination rounds after Thursday’s qualifying session. Peter Besenyei, a national hero in his native Hungary, rose to the challenges of the searing heat and new playoff round format, winning the final over the difficult 15-gate course in a time of 1:26.24 minutes. "I’m delighted. It was extremely difficult and I was fortunate to have the better finish in the final. To be honest, this is exactly what I said I was aiming for before the season began."
American Mike Mangold, who had been plagued all week by a stubborn neck injury, was able to put the painful pinched nerve out of his mind each time he climbed into his cockpit and delivered one stellar performance after another through the elimination rounds to secure second place. "It took me pretty much to the limit to fly four runs including the final in this heat with my injury. Considering it was the first race of the season, I’m just happy that I was able to prove I’m competitive," said Mangold, who finished just 1.03 seconds behind.
Britain’s Paul Bonhomme grabbed third place by flying the fastest run of the day (1:25.62) in the consolation final against American Kirby Chambliss, the defending champion who was visibly disappointed about landing in fourth place. "It’s crap to finish fourth, but that’s the way it is. If it weren’t for time penalty (for flying too high on one gate), I could have made it to the final. But I’m optimistic for the next race."
For Austrian Hannes Arch the race weekend was over before it even started. The rookie was eliminated in the qualifying round on Thursday and condemned to watch Friday’s race as a spectator. Four others were eliminated in Friday’s first round, failing to win coveted spots in the top eight for the quarter-finals: Klaus Schrodt (GER), Sergey Rakhmanin (RUS), Nigel Lamb (GBR) and Nicolas Ivanof (FRA).