Red Bull Air Race Paul Bonhomme Tops Time Sheets In Windsor


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Red Bull Air Race Paul Bonhomme Tops Time Sheets In Windsor

By Daniel Guevarra

June 4, 2010 - Paul Bonhomme topped the time sheets in the first training session on Thursday ahead of the weekend’s Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Windsor with Hannes Arch of Austria and Australia’s Matt Hall close behind on the challenging track set up on the Detroit River. Canada’s Pete McLeod used his time in the track to experiment in search of the best racing lines. 

Bonhomme, the defending champion who won the Windsor race a year ago, set the pace on a windy overcast morning with a time of 1:11.97 on the track that straddles the Canada-U.S. border. Arch, the hottest pilot in the championship at the moment with wins in the last two races, was just 0.72 behind even though he picked up a 1-second penalty. Hall was 1.89 behind in 1:13.86.

The pilots generally use the first training sessions to get an initial look at the track, test the racing lines and get a feel for the wind conditions. They only use the timings in the first session as a rough indication of where they stand before opening up the throttle in the Friday training sessions that precede the Qualifying on Saturday.

“The track is interesting and keeps you busy,” Bonhomme said, noting the wind on the track was much stronger than expected. “I’m pleased with the time. We’re near the top, which is good. The wind is definitely going to be a factor.” Bonhomme was able to adjust to changes in the winds last year to get atop the podium but knows that Arch, Hall and Britain’s Nigel Lamb (4th on Thursday) as well as the two Americans Michael Goulian (5th) and Kirby Chambliss (7th) are all capable of winning the race, the fourth of the eight-stop 2010 season.


“It’s a lot harder out there in the track than expected,” said Arch, the 2008 champion. “My flying was quite rough. I was just trying to figure out how to get through the track. I had two pylon hits. On one I wasn’t really focused. The other was like ‘I don’t know how I can do it’. It was just a concentration thing. So I think I’ve found my lines. I just need to smooth them out and work on getting faster in the track.”


The Windsor race marks the midway point of the 2010 season with Bonhomme (31 championship points) clinging to a shrinking over Lamb and the hard-charging Arch. The next stop is in two weeks in New York. McLeod, hoping for a top four finish, used the training session to experiment on difficult sections and was one of four pilots who did not complete a run due to disqualification.  “It’s an interesting track, a tight technical track,” McLeod said after his first run. “I’m looking forward to some more training time in the track so I can clean it up for the race. Last year there was so much energy from the crowd for me to race here and I’m looking forward to another best result in Windsor. A top four would be great.”

Canada’s Pete McLeod has replaced his technician for the team’s home round in Windsor this weekend on 5 and 6 June. Hoping to build on a strong start to the 2010 Red Bull Air Race World Championship campaign, the pilot has enlisted the help of Michael Goulian’s former assistant tech, Brad Huelsman.

The speedy restructure came about just days before the home race in Canada at what is a particularly high stress time for the team, already under the spotlight and with high expectations weighing heavily ahead of the race. McLeod says he and former technician Ted Reynolds parted company on good terms but admits that the decision had to be taken promptly to ensure a replacement could be found in time.

“I’ve got to look at not only my own goals but also I have a team that relies on me to make decisions,” says McLeod. “We’ve got to make sure we have our best foot forward all the time as a unit. In terms of development and reaching my future goals I’ve never been one to waste time.”

With almost 30 years of technical experience to tap into and a career in the Air Force to solidify his credentials, Huelsman is an experienced pilot who has built his own aircraft back in the US. He has also supported Michael Goulian in recent years as team coordinator before deciding to better exploit his mechanical know-how within the team in the role of assistant tech in 2010. Switching teams for the Canada race, Huelsman is enthusiastic about working with the young Canadian pilot and says he has a particular affinity with the country so it’s a fitting race to make the swap.

“I’m what you call a Can-Am, or Canadian-American,” says Huelsman, who spent stints living in Toronto and regularly travels from his current home in Dayton, Ohio, back to the Canadian city. “So I’ve got a lot of history right here in Windsor, halfway between the two places I’ve lived.”

Joining the up and coming team – McLeod is currently in 5th place overall in the championship – is an exciting prospect for Huelsman, who has quickly made himself at home in the new hangar. Used to working with Goulian, who is considered a true professional of the aviation world, Huelsman can already see the potential in McLeod and has no concerns about joining the young team.

“Pete grew up around aircraft so he knows machines,” says Huelsman, with the kind of authority you’d expect from someone with such extensive experience. “I’ve seen him fly in airshows outside of the Red Bull Air Race environment and he’s an excellent pilot. He knows the balance between pushing beyond risk and doing it in a calculated fashion; Pete’s got a really good handle on that. He’s moved up rapidly and there don’t seem to be any flat spots in his progression. It’s very exciting.”

Yoshi Muroya of Japan was forced to find a replacement airplane for the Red Bull Air Race in Windsor after his Edge 540 suffered slight damage when the canopy came unlatched on its first test flight at the Race Airport shortly after being reassembled, Race Director Drew Searle said on Thursday.

“The canopy came off in the test flying area, got caught in the wind flow and went back and hit the tail,” Searle said. “It landed on the grass in the test flying area. It’s a specific test flying area. It was the first flight and it was the ‘shake down’ test, what we call the ‘post-assembly check flight’. It fell harmlessly to the ground. It’s not cool but the system worked. It’s no big deal. We’ve had a canopy unlock before in Interlaken.”

Muroya’s team was unable to repair the damage on the horizontal stabilizer in time for Thursday’s training session. They decided to borrow the Edge 540 that Hannes Arch used during the 2009 season. They traveled to Oklahoma to pick it up.

The team was racing the clock to be back in Windsor in time to complete a technical inspection needed to be eligible to take part in the race. Muroya said in a telephone interview he would be back in Windsor in time for Friday’s training session. He will need to complete at least one of Friday’s two scheduled training sessions to be able to take part in Saturday’s Qualifying.

“I will be in Windsor tomorrow,” Muroya said. “The canopy just came off -- it unlatched somehow and was gone,” Muroya said, adding he was not hurt.

American Kirby Chambliss’s latch had opened at the very start of a training run in Interlaken, Switzerland in 2007. He said he had just taken off and was still flying at a relatively slow speed so he was able to land again without any damage being caused. “Mine opened at slow speed -- I had just taken off,” Chambliss said. “I kept going slow and didn’t lose my canopy.

Muroya has been plagued by misfortune in Windsor. Last year he hit a pylon during training that caused some damage to a wing’s surface and was not able to race.
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