It was a quick turnaround today as the Master Class pilots made their way into the track for Qualifying in front of an amped crowd at Ascot.
Matt Hall had set the bar in the earlier Training session with a storming 1:07.721 – and with the pilots having had time to refine their lines, the Qualifying session saw the teams up their game and go full throttle.
In the first runs of the Qualifying session, a clean and aggressive performance placed Muroya as the first early challenger for the top spot on the timesheets, before Sonka threw his hat into the ring with an impressive 1:07.172. But it was a short-lived stint at the top as Australia's Matt Hall made his case, breaking the track record with 1:06.876. Budapest was a huge disappointment for the Aussie, with victory snatched from his grasp in the last round, and he was clearly focused on taking that elusive race win out of Bonhomme's grasp.
The drama was far from over in Qualifying, and it was an uncomfortable case of déjà vu for Hannes Arch as he opted for a Safety Climb Out (SCO), climbing high out of a gate and forfeiting the chance to post a solid time. The only contender left in the field to challenge Hall was Britain's Paul Bonhomme. Quintessentially smooth and aggressive, the Brit has been cool, calm and collected all weekend and seems, unsurprisingly, right at home here at Ascot. A fastest time of 1:06.449 put Hall into second place as the pilots headed into their second round of runs in Qualifying.
Fans witnessed a renaissance for Besenyei in run 2, as the Hungarian ironed out the problems from the first round of Qualifying. A superb performance saw him leap up the rankings with almost five seconds off his run 1 time.
Matt Hall was a man on a mission for his second run, with tight turns and flatter, more aggressive vertical turns pitching him ahead of Bonhomme in the timesheets. He threw the gauntlet down to the Brit as he scalped time off Bonhomme's run 1 time and set yet another track record. With Arch experiencing technical issues resulting in a DNS for the Austrian, Bonhomme was last up in the Qualifying session.
After a slower start, Bonhomme seemed to hear the roar of the home crowd and answered Hall with a stunning and defiant 1:06.023, and one more track record to boot, to finish the Masters Class flying sessions for the day. The Brit and the Australian are set to go full throttle in a battle of wits, skill and speed tomorrow in the unmissable Race Day high-speed, low-altitude action.
In a twist of fate, with Arch's technical issues playing havoc with his bid for a third consecutive win, the Austrian will go head to head with fastest flyer Paul Bonhomme in the Round of 14 tomorrow.