NEW YORK - Austria's Hannes Arch has qualified fastest for the first ever Red Bull Air Race in New York following a sensational second session on Saturday. Arch collects one championship point to cut Paul Bonhomme‘s lead at the top to just one point ahead of the fifth race of 2010 on Sunday.
Canada's Pete McLeod took a remarkable third place on the turn-filled track on the Hudson River, between the Statue of Liberty and the skyscrapers of Manhattan.
Arch stopped the clock on the 5.5-km track of 13 Air Gates in 1:08.18 on the first Qualifying run to beat Bonhomme. Even though the Austrian had a penalty-marred second run, Bonhomme could not get any closer than 0.52 seconds with his fast second run when he hit speeds near 230 mph. Bonhomme still leads the championship with 41 points while Arch, who has won the last three races, now has 40.
“Paul’s times are so close,” Arch said. “I hope he gives me more room tomorrow so I won't be so stressed. You have to fly on the limit but clean. I think that's the key: just focus and stay calm tomorrow."
Bonhomme was disappointed that he did win the one Qualifying point but sounded confident he could win the big prize -- 12 points for first place -- on Sunday.
"I think the positives we should take out of this is that we improved our run while Hannes got worse,” said Bonhomme, the defending champion. “And that's a good thing. Clearly that's a point that we'd rather have. We're looking forward to the racing day tomorrow."
It was an exceptional day of high-speed, low-altitude racing for the two Americans -- Kirby Chambliss (4th) and Michael Goulian (5th). They had struggled in the first Qualifying session but raised their game in the second session even though winds picked up. Both Chambliss and Goulain have said flying past the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline has been a highlight of their careers.