Bonhomme’s final say: Part II
With 19 race wins and three World Championships to his name, Paul Bonhomme knows what the pilots will be going through and how they can improve. In part I he reviewed positions 14-8. Here, he turns his attention to the top half of the standings...
7th Mika Brageot
Mika flew well in Quali and his 5th place put him up against Matthias Dolderer in the first heat of Race Day. Both of them were the testers for what was to come with the unusual wind conditions. Normally, the sea breeze kicks in at lunchtime and the wind is from the north west, but for the first time in my memory the wind on Race Day stayed out of the south east. Both of them found the tailwind at Gate 7/14 to be a handful, but Mika clinched it by just 8/10ths of a second. He took a double whammy in the Round of 8 with a one second smoke penalty and an over G at Gate 3 (another one second). Without those, he would have beaten Goulian into the Final 4.
6th Juan Velarde
I think Juan should be pleased with his 6th place in the first race of the year. Knowing his search for perfection, I suspect he may not see it that way. His flying was silky smooth in Quali run one and except for an incorrect level at Gate 14, then run two would have been outstanding. On Race Day he progressed easily to the Round of 8 but just rolled shy of level in Gate 7 against the in-form Muroya. This was a turning point for the day as with out that penalty, and it was unnecessary, he would have burst into the Final 4 with the fastest time.
5th Matt Hall
Not the start we were expecting from the Australian team. A mixed bag of results in the training and Free Practice sessions culminated in a less than convincing win in the Round of 14 and then an off the pace run in the Round of 8 against Martin Sonka. They are looking at engine issues which is unfortunate at any time, let alone the season opener. They’ll bounce back and, with a fully serviceable engine, we think the Aussies will be fast again. Roll on race two.
4th Nicolas Ivanoff
Talk about an emotional rollercoaster. Last in Qualifying and beaten in the Round of 14, you’d think it was home-time… but the fact that Nico didn’t give up, even against Yoshi Muroya, meant that his R14 time propelled him into the Round of 8 as the fastest loser. In fact, the lesson here for all air race pilots is “avoid the penalties!”. Nico was the only runner-up in the Round of 14 NOT to make a mistake and hence he went through as fastest loser. He then repeated the tactic against Chambliss, who did make a mistake, so putting the Frenchman straight into the Final 4. Here the luck turned again, his fuel pump failed meaning he couldn’t start. So frustrating…
3rd Michael Goulian
A great start to the year for Team Goulian. And again, a great example of not needing to fly blisteringly fast but just clean. Whilst Mike was quick, it was the reliability and penalty-free flying that worked to get him into the Final 4. His third place position was only two-tenths of a second off the winning time which in distance terms is about 20 metres. That is a pretty narrow margin to separate all the podium placed pilots and should set it up for excitement in the next race…
2nd Martin Sonka
Apart from a one second over-G penalty in the Round of 8 (which didn’t affect his heat win), this was a faultless weekend for the Czech pilot. He ended up losing to Muroya by three-thousandths of a second. That’s about 30cm… the width of your laptop. It doesn’t get much closer than that and with the flying standard at the top like this, I forecast this season will be determined by whoever makes the fewest mistakes.
1st Yoshihide Muroya
The season started with a new points system: three points for winning Qualifying and 25 points for the race winner. Surely no one could do that on the first weekend of the 2019 season? Oh yes they could… onto the stage, please step Yoshi Muroya! And as we have seen before, it comes down to consistency. He and the team clearly found the correct line and stuck to it. In their last seven flying sessions including the Final 4, Team Muroya’s fastest times were all within a second. That is impressive when you consider the changes in wind, temperature and most importantly the human factors involved into getting an aeroplane around the track. Watch out, Yoshi is back!