Pilots Go Head-to-Head in Red Bull Air Race Finale

Collection with 25 media items created by Carsten Snejbjerg

20 Nov 2014 23:00

Photo and text by Carsten Snejbjerg

The Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Spielberg, Austria would be decided among three seasoned pilots, going wing-to-wing to capture the top spot on the podium and to take the big trophy home. Among the three was the hometown favorite Hannes Arch. Excitement around the race was palpable as the pilots prepared to take to the sky.

With an arena filled to capacity and a picturesque landscape with a clear blue sky, big green trees and mountains that almost framed the arena, conditions were perfect for the Air Race season's grand finale. 35,000 fans from around the world flocked to Spielberg and settled into a huge campsite right in front of the sold-out Red Bull Ring. A large proportion of these were Austrians who came to see the local hero Hannes Arch.

Going into the race in second place in the overall standings and with a fresh course record, set during the week's training, Arch was favored to take home the title of world champion, just 30 minutes drive from the town he grew up in.

Sunday's grand finale was also an important race for the 50-year-old British pilot Paul Bonhomme, for whom a victory would have meant becoming the only pilot in the world with three World Championship titles. But after a disappointing qualifying in which he made only 6th place, he was under serious pressure to prepare and review the lines he’d be flying. Line Selection is central to avoiding penalty seconds, the most crucial factor in a Red Bull Air Race.

Despite the extra pressure on Paul's shoulders, he spent his Sunday quietly preparing in the hangar. After a good breakfast, briefing he rest of the team, his strategy was finalized. After the plane’s final check, it was polished to a shine.

"If we win, it will probably be difficult to get hold of me when I start to drink beer," Bonhomme laughed.

Paul ended up drinking beer on Sunday night, but not because he lifted the trophy.
The finale ended up being a race between local favorite Hannes Arch and the 58-year-old Englishman Nigel Lamb. All the shortlisted favorites were among the top eight, but since the four fastest pilots in the qualifier were made it to the final four, Bonhomme was out due to his 6th-place best time.

Local fans covered the tribunes of the recently revamped Red Bull Ring in Austrian colors and held giant letters that together formed "GO HANNES." After breaking out in wild cheers several times, the Austrian fans packed into the stadium held their breath when Nigel Lambs aircraft approached the start gate.

The crowd was even further out on chairs edge when Nigel Lamb only recorded the second best time of the event, leaving Arch a golden opportunity to knock Lamb down to third place and win the title. However, on his on the last lap, approximately 15 seconds from goal, he made a mistake that cost him the title. A tiny error in his manoeuvre cost him two penalty seconds, giving Nigel Lamb - the second oldest pilot in competition - the World Championship title.

A man with plenty of British humor, the Oxford-based Lamb was not slow to thank Hannes Arch for his title-giving mistake.

Red Bull Air Race Austria Spielberg Aviation Pilot Airplanes Flight World Champi...

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Title photo for the collection
Redbull air race 01
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
25 Oct 2014

Competition heats up. The last round of the World Cup to decide who runs with the title and the competition is still wide open. Nicolas Ivanoff pulls his plane into a sharp loop on the end of the field to return. These loops are pilots exposed to more than 9 G.

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Redbull air race 02
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
25 Oct 2014

Fly in action on the pitch. All the aircraft in the race are equipped with smoke cannons so judges can see that they come right in through the gates.

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Redbull air race 03
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
25 Oct 2014

Fly in action on the pitch. All the aircraft in the race are equipped with smoke cannons so judges can see that they come right in through the gates.

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Redbull air race 05
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
26 Oct 2014

Nigel Lamb was the big winner in Spielberg where his race times won him the overall world championship.

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Redbull air race 06
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
25 Oct 2014

Spielberg is beautifully situated in the Austrian countryside.

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Redbull air race 07
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
26 Oct 2014

Yoshihide 'Yoshi' Muroya's crew start their final preparations before the race.

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Redbull air race 08
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
26 Oct 2014

Yoshihide 'Yoshi' Muroya on the race day. In the pit, his crew readies his aircraft for the competition.

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Redbull air race 09
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
26 Oct 2014

A 'Canadian' number girl attended the race in a traditional state trooper uniform. The Canadian pilot Pete McLeod was the lucky one.

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Redbull air race 10
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
26 Oct 2014

Nicolas Ivanoff and Michael Goulian meet in the hangar just before they are run around the track and presented to the audience.

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Redbull air race 11
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
26 Oct 2014

Pilots and number girls arrive to sign autographs in the pit area.

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Redbull air race 12
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
26 Oct 2014

Pilots and number girls arrive to sign autographs in the pit area.

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Redbull air race 13
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
26 Oct 2014

Pilots and number girls arrive to sign autographs in the pit area.

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Redbull air race 14
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
26 Oct 2014

Pilots and number girls arrive to sign autographs in the pit area.

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Redbull air race 15
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
26 Oct 2014

Matt Hall signs autographs in the pit area on the day of the race. Which is out of stock and 35,000 waiting in voltage.

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Redbull air race 16
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
26 Oct 2014

American Michael Goulian enjoys his popularity, happy to sign autographs for his fans.

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Redbull air race 17
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
26 Oct 2014

An old double-decker bus transports number girls and pilots around the track. The pilots were on the upper floor. Number The girls have to make do with the lower level.

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Redbull air race 18
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
25 Oct 2014

The pilots are presented to the audience at the track. Hungarian Peter Besenyei in a concentrated moment.

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Redbull air race 19
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
26 Oct 2014

Pilots in a private moment in the bus, where they enjoy great support from fans in a sold out arena.

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Redbull air race 20
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
26 Oct 2014

Pilots in a private moment in the bus, where they enjoy great support from fans in a sold out arena.

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Redbull air race 21
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
25 Oct 2014

A mechanic in the pit works on a the engine of a prop-plane.

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Redbull air race 22
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
26 Oct 2014

Czech Martin Sonka waits in his plane before the decisive final heat.

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Redbull air race 23
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
25 Oct 2014

The local hero and star Hannes Arch's crew at the moment they find out that Hannes will not become world champion. Hannes had otherwise shown great flights and went into the final with the best times, but taking a chance in the final, he took himself out of the running.

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Redbull air race 25
Spielberg, Austria
By Carsten Snejbjerg
26 Oct 2014

Matthias Dolderer is cheered on and covered in confetti during the award ceremony.