Hannes Arch of Austria was declared the winner of the Red Bull Air Race in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday when adverse weather conditions made it impossible to continue racing during the Top 12 round. The results were then based on the previous day's Qualifying session.
Britain’s Nigel Lamb was awarded second place based on his Qualifying finish, while championship leader Paul Bonhomme was forced to settle for a disappointing third place in the third race of the 2010 season.
Heavy rain and winds swept across Rio, drenching the 250,000 spectators during the Top 12 round and forcing a delay of the high-speed, low-altitude flying in front of the city’s Flamengo Beach. Pilots in the air headed to the race track were called back to the Race Airport.
The pilots were all hoping conditions would improve, but organizers eventually decided not to continue with the Top 12 due to the inclement weather and unpromising forecast. It was only the second time that has happened in the 46-race history of the Red Bull Air Race. Bonhomme was declared the winner at the first, in Longleat, U.K. in 2006.
"It was an easy way to win today, but I’m happy to be able to catch up in the championship." –Hannes Arch
Arch’s second-consecutive victory also cuts Bonhomme’s championship lead to three points. Bonhomme is at 31 points after collecting nine points for his second-consecutive third-place finish, while Lamb is second at 28 points for his two second-place finishes in three races this year.
Arch holds 27 points after collecting a maximum 13 points in Rio – 12 for the victory and one bonus point for winning the Qualifying on Saturday in front of 400,000 Brazilian fans. Arch also won the last race in Perth.
"On the one hand I'm obviously thrilled to get the win today, but on the other hand I would really have liked to have given the 250,000 spectators here today a great race," said Arch, the 2008 world champion who was clearly delighted after stumbling with an 11th place (2 points) in the opening race in Abu Dhabi.
“It was an easy way to win today, but I’m happy to be able to catch up in the championship. It’s motivating me for the season. Abu Dhabi is history now. Things are looking up. I know what it’s like to be leading the championship and everyone is out to get you.”
Lamb, off to the best start of his career, was pleased to narrow Bonhomme’s lead. “It’s obviously a really good result, but deep down, it’s a bit of an anti-climax for all of us,” he said. “I’m kind of disappointed. At least I got 10 points for second, which isn’t bad.”
Bonhomme and the other pilots had all known that rain was in the forecast for Sunday, even though it had been bright and sunny all week. They all put their best effort into the Qualifying round on Saturday because they knew there was a risk that the race could not be completed.
Bonhomme, who got his very first racing victory in Rio in 2007, was disappointed with his Qualifying run. Accustomed to flying in bad weather in Britain, he was then hoping to get the chance to make amends for that Qualifying defeat on Sunday, as light drizzle made the flying challenging during the Wild Card session and the first half of the Top 12.
“Hey, it’s a net loss of four points in Rio so that’s a shame,” said Bonhomme with a smile. The 2009 champion dismissed suggestions that the pressure from a resurgent Arch and vastly improved Lamb was causing him problems. “No, not at all,” Bonhomme said. “It’s a long season. We’ve got another five races so it should be good fun.”
The next Red Bull Air Race is in Windsor, Canada, on June 5-6.