red Bull Air Race Ascot

Home coming 

Photo above: Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Content Pool

British Red Bull Air Race pilots Nigel Lamb and Paul Bonhomme regularly race in foreign skies chasing World Championship points. But the reigning champion and former champion both agree there’s nothing like doing battle in front of a home crowd at Ascot.

Last year we raced at Ascot racecourse for the first time, and it was an incredible weekend,” explains Nigel Lamb. “Paul and I inadvertently created a lot of drama. We both had difficult head-to-heads and only made it through to the final as fastest losers. Then he won it and I came second – he beat me by .12 of a second. It was great to be on the podium at home.”

red Bull Air Race Ascot

Nigel Lamb, Paul Bonhomme and Nicolas Ivanoff celebrate their success 

© Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Content Pool

“Qualifying was a complete disaster,” confirms Paul Bonhomme. “So on race day we thought, ‘To hell with it, we’ve got nothing to lose.’ And we just went for it. Winning was a doubly exhilarating feeling because it was the home race. I remember afterwards the grass looking so lusciously green. I think it must have been a victory on home turf that made it look greener than usual. It looked delicious.”

red Bull Air Race Ascot

Paul Bonhomme in full flight 

© Daniel Grund/Red Bull Content Pool

According to Nigel, “Ascot is a unique race as you have a standing start. Usually we do an airborne start and go through the start gate as close as we can to the maximum starting speed, which is 200 knots, or 220mph. At Ascot they had a brilliant idea, that we take off right in front of the crowd using the horseracing track as our runway. You may start off slower but you end off going just as fast. It makes the race very special. It’s man, machine and clock  - it’s an amazing sport for anyone, whether you like planes or not.”

red Bull Air Race Ascot

© Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Content Pool

“Victory on home turf that made it [the grass] look greener than usual. It looked delicious.”
Paul Bonhomme

“There are lots of advantages to being at home. Equally there are disadvantages,” states Paul. “If you compare it to motor racing, when Lewis Hamilton races at Silverstone he’s driven there 1000 times. But for us, we’ve done as many laps of the track as everyone else. Then everybody you’ve ever met wants to come and watch, which is delightful, but when you’re trying to win a race it can be a distraction. You have to stay focused on the end goal.”

red Bull Air Race Ascot

Paul Bonhomme is greeted by fans after winning the final of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Ascot

© Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Content Pool

“I’m so, so keen to win Ascot this year, for a number of reasons,” answers Nigel Lamb when asked about his expectations for 2015. “It’s a home race, last year I so nearly won it and on the Monday evening replays I saw exactly where I lost it – just one turn. I’d like to rectify that. Oh and of course I want the points! For me Paul is the one to beat at Ascot. His plane is fast and he’s a very good competitor.”

Red Bull Air Race Ascot

Nigel Lamb gives his plane a final inspection before competing 

© Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Content Pool

“I’ve no idea if I’ll manage to win at Ascot again this year.” admits Paul Bonhomme. The competition is even more fierce. The minutest of muscle movements at the wrong time can see you tumble from second to eighth place. Absolutely anything can happen.” 

 

Watch all the action live at Ascot on August 15 and 16! Visit ascot.co.uk/airrace

Red Bull Air Race Ascot
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