New World Champion in the spotlight

Nigel Lamb talks about his 2014 title and looks forward to 2015 on TV

Filmed for Servus TV's Sport and Talk programme, Nigel Lamb was a guest at Hangar 7 in Salzburg after the history-making success on Sunday in Spielberg, where he claimed his first World Championship title. Here are the highlights from the interview...

Q Nigel, congratulations on winning the 2014 Red Bull Air Race World Championship and for flying so consistently all season. You said several times on Sunday it would take a while for it to sink in. Has it finally dawned on you that you won and managed to beat hard-charging Hannes Arch in his own back yard?

NL It's fantastic. It's awesome. It's really incredible. Obviously it was a drama, which I would have preferred to have avoided. But yes, indeed, it's sinking in now and it's wonderful.

Q How did you celebrate?

NL I didn't celebrate too hard on Sunday because unfortunately I had to fly the plane on the next morning so I made sure I had a good sleep. But I'm going to celebrate many times in the next weeks and months, and probably for the next 12 months we'll be having little celebrations because it's a major achievement, and a real highlight of my career so I'll take every chance to celebrate.

Q British people are famous for that 'stiff upper lip' and staying calm under pressure but after Arch beat everyone in three straight training sessions and was so far ahead of you and everyone in Qualifying, you were looking a bit worried. What were you really thinking after seeing Arch fly so fast through Qualifying?

NL I must admit that I thought that he was feeding off the local support; that big home crowd. I always feel that is a little bit of a disadvantage racing at home. But he was so consistent and so fast. But we could also see in the analysis that he was right on the edge and in some instances so close to penalties that it was a really risky strategy. It didn't really affect me in the mindgame because I thought I have to stick to my strategy and race my race and see what happens. I actually was praying for really strong winds. Hannes was too fast and the track was benign. He was in such good form. I was looking for something to upset the balance. It didn't come. After my final run I was convinced that I had lost the championship. But I knew he still had to win the race. To beat me he would have to beat Nicolas (Ivanoff).

Q How does it feel to be the fifth different Red Bull Air Race World Champion in the last six championship seasons after Kirby Chambliss in 2006, Mike Mangold in 2007, Hannes Arch in 2008, and Paul Bonhomme in 2009-10? What does all that turnover at the top say about the sport?

NL I think what is interesting is that things have changed enormously since 2006 and 2007. It is altogether different now. The styles are different. The best thing is the equalling of the power and the weight so it's so much, much more competitive now. It's nice to have a mix up at the top. What is really amazing this year is that nine out of 12 pilots were on the podium this year and all three who weren't on the podium have each won at least one race – and in Kirby's case has won the World Championship. With the current power and weight regulations, I think next year will be incredibly competitive and I'm sure there's gong to be so much more changeover on the podium than this year.

Q We're still trying to figure out how you managed to pull off six straight podiums this season and get five straight second place finishes in such a competitive season?

NL It's unbelievable. Somehow this year I just found the form. If I looked at my cockpit videos since Rovinj, where I thought I was flying well, I really changed quite a lot of the way I fly in the track and that really worked well. I've managed to avoid making the simple mistakes, which I made a lot of in 2010. In 2010 I had pretty good form. I was in the final every time either 2nd of 4th. Whenever I came fourth in 2010 it was from making a stupid mistake like hitting the easiest gate or rolling in the gate because I was already thinking too far ahead. Somehow I managed to conquer the mental game and combine that with a slightly different style of flying that I managed to be consistent at. It's just the consistency that brought me the result in the end.

Q After the second race in Rovinj, where you got just one point for 8th place, things weren't looking very good for even equalling your 2010 overall ranking of third. What were your thoughts back then when you had just five points from the first two races while Paul Bonhomme and Hannes Arch were streaking so far ahead with 21 points each?

NL I must admit, I never would have imagined we'd go on to win the Championship from that position. But we're a very strong team, very positive and it was really a matter of good teamwork. Rovinj was the low point, possibly in my whole aviation career of nearly 40 years. That was an elementary mistake. I think I could have gotten several more points in Rovinj. The track was looking good for me there and I was flying well. It was a low point. And then suddenly the self-belief came at the next race. So it's really good.

Q What were the key moments for you this season aside from your first and only career win in Putrajaya?

NL With the win in Putrajaya and right after that I could see a real upward trend. Then Hannes and Paul hit a sticky patch. I could see a real trend especially in the really hot races, in the American races in Dallas and Las Vegas. Malaysia was, of course, the big turning point for me in many ways. It was really hot and the conditions were physically very tough. I found that to win in those conditions I realised I could do it in any situation. With a couple more second places, I could feel the upward trend. Then seeing the leaders wobble, I was full of self-belief.

Q What are your thoughts about 2015?

NL It's going to be unbelievably tight. So many of the new guys who joined in 2009 and 2010 have all had a taste of the podium and know what's required to win. Next year I would say there's a good chance that every single pilot will be on the podium. There will be several winners after we had five different winners this year. People will go from being on the podium in one race to no points in the net or to winning a race to just a few points in the next race. I think it's possible to go from a win to no points in the next race next year. I think it's going to be a very exciting year.