Sunday, 05 July 2015 18:32
BUDAPEST, Hungary – Team Garmin’s Pete McLeod moved up two notches to fifth place overall in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship standings with a solid fourth place finish in Budapest on Sunday, but the Canadian ace was disappointed at the same time about just missing out on his second podium of the season on the most famous race track in the world’s fastest motorsport series.
McLeod climbed from seventh to fifth place overall with 15 championship points from seventh place at the midway point of the eight-race season after making it through the Round of 14 and Round of 8 with some brilliant flying at speeds of up to 370 km/h on the high-speed, low-altitude race track set up just meters above the Danube River in the heart of Budapest.
The Canadian, who got five points for fourth place, was getting better each time out in the track despite scorching temperatures above 33 degrees and was hoping to snatch his second career victory, after winning in Las Vegas last year. But his time (1:01.113) was bafflingly slow in the Final Four, about two seconds slower than what he thought he could have flown and just behind Martin Sonka of the Czech Republic (1:00.658), who took third.
“Overall it was a good race and we made some good progress going on the track and off it as well,” he said, referring to gradually improving engine performance that has plagued him this season. “I’m a bit dumbfounded right now as to where I lost the time in the final. We’re going to look at the data and the lines I was flying to try to figure it out.”
McLeod added: “We know that on this track because it’s so fast that it could be something as little as a really small mistake that can set you back. I was about 2 seconds off the pace of what I could have flown. I’m just not sure where that was from. Maybe it was an accumulation of some small mistakes. Maybe the engine setting on my part. We’ll have to see. I was pretty surprised with my time in the track and not in a good way.”
Austria’s Hannes Arch won the race in the heart of Budapest, overcoming a ferocious challenge from championship leader Paul Bonhomme to pull off a stylish victory. With his second straight victory, Arch moved into second place overall.
Bonhomme, who still has the overall lead with 34 points, was a close second, just 0.207 of a second behind Arch's winning time of 59.350 seconds on the breathtaking track set up on the Danube River in front of the Hungarian parliament building. The world’s 14 best pilots were flying at speeds of up to 370 km/h just meters above the surface of Danube River in front of thousands of spectators. It was the sixth time the Red Bull Air Race was staged in Budapest, one of the most spectacular locations where the pilots enter the track by flying beneath the city’s iconic Chain Bridge.
Arch, who struggled in the pre-race timed training sessions and was only third in Qualifying on Saturday, was unstoppable through the first two elimination rounds, comfortably advancing through the Round of 14 and the Round of 8. But he was pushed to the limits in the riveting Final Four by Bonhomme, Sonka and McLeod. Even as temperatures soared, Arch calmly held on to deliver his best performance of the week.
The Red Bull Air Race World Championship moves to its next stop in Ascot (UK) on August 15-16, where McLeod will be looking to keep his momentum rolling and look forward to his second podium of 2015.