Thrilling finale to London’s first-ever Red Bull Air Race
It wasn’t the dream ending home fans hoped for with a British winner at the first-ever Red Bull Air Race in London, but Sunday’s superb event was still a great success for the capital and the future of the air race series in the UK. American Mike Mangold snatched victory from Britain’s Paul Bonhomme by just over one second in a cliff-hanging finale along the low-level course along the River Thames in front of the O2 arena.The 35,000-strong crowds were treated to a thrilling day in complete contrast to last year’s disappointment at Longleat when strong winds and rain ruined race day. This year the sun shone on racers and fans alike providing a spectacle the capital has never seen before.From the moment the mixture of Edge 540s and Extras powered up and down the course at some 240kts in a series of elimination heats, it was clear that the London round of the World Series was going to be a close fought battle. Disappointment came early on for British fans when Steve Jones (Edge 540) and Paul Bonhomme (Edge 540) faced each other in a quarter-final knockout rather than in the final as many had hoped. Bonhomme won that particular battle, going on to face to Mangold in the final.Following the race Mangold was full of praise for the other pilots who had been pulling up to 9g in the turns on the tight and twisty course: “The other 11 pilots are some of the most professional aviators out there. It’s a real honour to fly with these guys,” he said.Mangold’s victory means he is now just one point behind championship leader Bonhomme who has 31 points. In the consolation race for third place, Hungarian Peter Besenyei beat Alejandro Maclean from Spain.French pilot Nicolas Ivanoff, meanwhile, showed the right stuff with his new Extra 300SR which suffered in the windy conditions and strong turbulence over the Thames during qualifying. “I’m still working on the plane and doing final adjustments,” he said. “It’s extremely sensitive to the turbulence. When I fly sideways and want to go right the wind pushed me left.” To try to combat the problems, Ivanoff plans to replace the ailerons.During the weekend The Red Bull Air Race presented its partnership with Spanish car manufacturer SEAT: The three-year agreement includes SEAT branding on the aircraft as well as on the 70 cars that will be used by the pilots and the organisation, including the most eye-catching vehicle, the special Leon Cupra ‘Follow-Me’ car for use at the airstrip.Click on the video link right to see highlights from the race.