Canada’s Pete McLeod was having a great run in Qualifying at the Red Bull Air Race World Championship season opener in Abu Dhabi on Friday but got hit with a 2-second penalty -- for an incorrect gate passing -- near the end of his run that dropped him from third place to sixth.
McLeod will thus face Spain’s Juan Velarde, who finished ninth in Qualifying, in Saturday’s first knock out Round of 14 in the opening race of the 2015 season. McLeod, who won last year’s Qualifying here in Abu Dhabi and finished third in the 2014 race, has nevertheless recovered some of the speed in his flying after worrying earlier in the week that his engine was underperforming.
“Today there was actually some light at the end of the tunnel,” said McLeod, who had posted a strong time in training earlier on Friday after making some adjustments to his engine that seemed to improve its performance. “We made some little changes and tried some new lines. We made some progress there.”
McLeod said he was looking forward to flying against Velarde, a new Master pilot who finished unexpectedly well in his debut race while many of the top veterans – such as defending champion Nigel Lamb (14) and Hannes Arch (10) struggled on the track after the winds changed.
“With the brackets the way they are, flying against Juan in the first round is a pretty good draw,” said McLeod. “That middle bracket is a less aggressive path to the Final 4. It’s going to be entertaining. A few of the top guys will be racing against each other in the first round.”
McLeod said that he believes that his engine is getting faster in time for the race: “I think I’ve gotten over my frustration. I was pretty worked up the last four days and not being very happy with what I was able to get out of the airplane. I’ve got a new motor and hopefully it’s starting to break in. It’s motorsport and hard to fly well if you don’t have a good engine.”
Britain’s Paul Bonhomme won pole position for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship season opener in Abu Dhabi by posting the fastest time in Qualifying on Friday on the breathtaking turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf.
The UAE capital of Abu Dhabi will host the Red Bull Race World Championship season opener for an eighth time on Saturday when 14 of the world’s top pilots will be battling for points. The Qualifying results produced a number of surprising results.