Bonhomme’s Balaton Review

Three-time World Champ offers his thoughts on the Master Class's performance

It was a race to remember in Lake Balaton with the pilots having plenty of racing lines to choose from, but who faired well? 19-time race winner Paul Bonhomme shares his opinions on how the race went for the pilots…

14th François Le Vot 
Le Vot has had a rollercoaster of a year. 12th to 4th to 14th in three races. François and the team will be disappointed not to finish higher up in Hungary. Two mistakes, both incorrect levels, on both passes of the same gate put paid to a win in the Round of 14 against Ben Murphy. Gate 4/12 was possibly the simplest gate on the course but kept catching out pilots. It’s interesting that the more complicated gates were passed more successfully. 

13th Matthias Dolderer
Safe to say that this is not Matthias’ year. 11th in Abu Dhabi, last in Kazan and 13th here. With one race to go, Matthias needs to show us why he was the World Champion in 2016. 

12th Yoshihide Muroya 
The wind changed a lot on the morning of Race Day and in the video clip prior to his Round of 14 flight, Yoshi mentioned keeping the tactics simple because of the tricky conditions. What he didn’t know at that stage was the wind had died down since the morning and a more aggressive set of tactics was required for a fast time. Yoshi lost 1.6 seconds just on the big turns to Matt Hall’s more aggressive line. Don’t write this team off though... we’ve seen them bounce back before and I forecast more fun in Chiba for Team Falken. 

11th Nicolas Ivanoff 
Nicolas’ promising start to the year seems a long time ago. Even without his one second over-G penalty on the penultimate gate, he would still have lost to the on-form Pete McLeod. The good news is that his flying (apart from that over-G) has become far more reliable and the rash of incorrect levels he used to get seems a long time ago. 

10th Mika Brageot 
The French seemed to like pulling a lot of G at Gate 13 and Mika was no exception. The over-G is made more likely by making the approach to the gate with a big set-up turn. This proved the rule that sometimes simplicity is the better way (with the caveat that you can’t play the tactics too safe... see Yoshi above). Mika had already had some fun there in Qualifying with an over-G and track limit line penalty in Q1. Without the Round of 14 penalty, Mika would have sailed into the Round of 8. 

9th Petr Kopfstein 
Petr always flies precisely but seems to be mostly on the safe side of the tactics game. Whilst flying penalty-free on Race Day is always a good thing, if you never get penalised then perhaps your tactics are too conservative. As Yoshi found with his wind tactics, flying too conservatively will probably be penalty free but also slow. If Petr decides to go more assertive with tactics, it should only be a small change and then we should see a result in Japan. 

8th Cristian Bolton 
A slow start to 2019 has turned into a great year for the Chilean pilot. After a turbulent Qualifying in Balaton, Cristian got his act together and flew beautifully against Juan Velarde in the Round of 14. Although 6/10ths slower than Velarde, he got the Fastest Loser spot and then ended up against Hall in the Round of 8. He’ll be ruing his tactics here because he was super conservative on the big pulls and lost about a second in those turns. Hall only beat him by half a second. He’ll be itching to get to Japan to show us what he can do in the final race. 

7th Michael Goulian 
Mike was flying consistently all week but generally sitting in the middle of the pack. His Quali time was slower than we expected, and it looked like they were still playing the “which line do we take” game with this variable track layout. In Quali he flew generally a straight pull at the western end (Gate 5/13) with a flat left run at the eastern end (Gate 9). This changed to a hint of right at the western end and straight at the eastern end during the Round of 14. It worked against Kopfstein but didn’t work against the Canadian McLeod in the Round of 8. He suggested in his interview afterwards that his tactics need to be more aggressive. I agree but as we’ve said about Kopfstein, those changes need to be slight... it is very easy to over do it. 

6th Kirby Chambliss 
Kirby was consistently flying the track at around the one minute mark all week. This is the most consistent we have seen him fly for a while. It was enough to see off Brageot in the Round of 14 (and some would say lucky with Mika and his over-G) but not quite enough for the likes of Martin Sonka in the Round of 8. A tough head-to-head, but a very respectable 6th place for the race. 

5th Juan Velarde 
Aaaaaaargh!! Juan will be kicking himself with that aggressive tactic at the last gate. All he needed to do to beat Murphy in the Round of 8 was go straight up and over for an eight second VTM and he would have won. Instead, and of course at the time he had no idea what the clock was saying, he went super flat and crossed the track limit line and collected a 1 second penalty. Even with the penalty he was only beaten by 66/100ths of a second. The phrase “would have, should have, could have” springs to mind. Great flying all week though, let’s hope the team can take that to shine in the land of the rising sun. 

4th Martin Sonka 
What a day! Martin and Yoshi have done all they can to make the last race of the season a nail-biter. Sonka was on rails all week. He won Qualifying (those three points could make all the difference at the end of the year) and breezed through the heats with two runs that were so consistent that if you’d overlaid them, his nose on the R14 flight would have been touching the tail of his aeroplane on his R8 flight. Impressive stuff until the complete out of character run in the Final 4. Not only did he clobber Gate 4 (the easiest gate on the track) but he was woefully slow. He said it was concentration problems but I wonder if there was an engine issue as well. Either way, I forecast fireworks in Chiba. 

3rd Pete McLeod 
Great flying from the Canadian all weekend except Pete did exactly the same as Juan Velarde had done earlier in the day with the track limit line at Gate 13-14. Without that one second penalty, he would have won the race, even beating Matt Hall. Come on Pete, let’s have a final flourish in Chiba. 

2nd Ben Murphy 
So, in terms of the progress made during the year, Ben Murphy’s stats make interesting reading. 13th in Abu Dhabi, 5th in Kazan, 2nd in Balaton... you can see where I am going with these stats can’t you? Whilst mathematically it is unlikely that Ben can win the championship (he would have to win Quali and the race, and then Sonka, Hall and Muroya all have an off-weekend), it is highly likely that he will be a thorn in the side of the leaders and get in the way. It’ll be great fun to watch! 

1st Matt Hall 
Yeaaay! About time too... just when you thought you knew what would happen in the championship, the Aussie comes along and wins convincingly. The impressive bit about this win was the cool, calm and collected way Matt went about it. No fuss, no bother, just a win. His final run was the fastest of the day and the most disciplined. I remember having a showdown with Matt in the desert (Las Vegas 2015) and that went my way... can this go his way at last in Chiba in September? 
 

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