Pete McLeod of Canada was declared the winner of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship stop in Las Vegas on Sunday after heavy winds forced the cancellation of the flying in the first of three final rounds. McLeod won the first race of his career by virtue of his victory in Qualifying on Saturday. Nigel Lamb of Britain moved into the overall World Championship lead of the world’s fastest motorsport series with 53 points on the strength of his fourth straight second place and Germany’s Matthias Dolderer got his first podium of the year with third place.
There was high drama on a bright and sunny afternoon in America’s gambling capital when heavy winds that gusted at speeds above 30 knots toppled several of the 25-meter high pylons. Eleven of the 12 pilots made it through the wind-swept track at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, despite a high number of penalties and mistakes, and the powerful winds from the north wreaked havoc with two of the top three favorites. Paul Bonhomme of Britain and Austria’s Hannes Arch, who were locked in a tight battle for the championship with Lamb, both struggled on the high-speed, low-altitude track with unaccustomed mistakes in the heavy winds and would have been eliminated in the Top 12 round had the race continued to the Super 8.
“This shows that Qualifying is important – we all know that weather can be a factor. You always want to race on race day,” said McLeod, who has won four of the seven Qualifying sessions this season but had just two third place results in Abu Dhabi and Fort Worth, Texas to show for it. “I’m happy with my flying in Qualifying so it’s something to smile about. I still want to earn my first win in the Final Four.”
The overall World Championship lead changed hands in Las Vegas, for the fourth time in this most exciting season ever, with Lamb leaping in front of Bonhomme into first place — for the first time in his long career — with his 53 championship points. Arch is in second with 48 points and Bonhomme has 47 points going into the final race of the season in Spielberg, Austria on October 25/26.
Results: 1. Pete McLeod (CAN), 2. Nigel Lamb (GBR), 3. Matthias Dolderer (GER), 4. Matt Hall (AUS), 5. Hannes Arch (AUT), 6. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA), 7. Paul Bonhomme (GBR), 8. Martin Sonka (CZE), 9. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN), 10. Michael Goulian (USA), 11. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 12. Peter Besenyei (HUN)
World Championship Standings: 1. Lamb 53 points, 2. Arch 48, 3. Bonhomme 47, 4. McLeod 37, 5. Hall 33, 6. Ivanoff 30, 7. Dolderer 21, 8. Sonka 11, 9. Muroya 10, 10. Besenyei 6, 11. Chambliss 5, 12. Goulian 0.