CHIBA, Japan – Canada’s Pete McLeod flew a lightning fast time at the second race of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Chiba, Japan on Sunday but got hit with two penalties that ruined his day as he and his Garmin Racing Team ended up a disappointing 12th after a surprise first-round knockout by American Michael Goulian.
Racing at speeds of 370 km/h in front of a sold-out crowd of 60,000 spectators on the high-speed, low-altitude track, McLeod finally was able to get his Edge 540 V3 flying the way it did last year and the way he knows it can to be a top contender in the world’s fastest motorsport series.
McLeod, who finished third in the season opener in Abu Dhabi despite an underperforming engine, was hoping to find a way to get back on the podium again in Chiba, Japan – the first time the race was staged in Eastern Asia. McLeod’s time of 50.785 seconds was the second fastest among 14 pilots, only just a fraction of a second behind local hero Yoshihide Muroya of Japan who posted a 50.779 seconds.
McLeod was penalized five seconds, receiving a total time of 55.785 seconds, and lost his heat to Goulian by 2.809 seconds. The American navigated the 25-meter high track without any penalties, although more than two seconds slower, and stopped the clock in 52.976. McLeod was first hit with a three second penalty for hitting a pylon and then received a further two seconds for incorrect level flying through another gate.
“It was a tough day results-wise for me but I think I made a breakthrough with the plane set-up and the flying lines,” said McLeod, who won last year’s race in Las Vegas, sounding relieved that his Garmin Racing Team might have finally overcome the bewildering engine problems. “Aside from the penalties, I posted one of the fastest net times of the round. That gives me a positive outlook heading into the next race in Croatia in two weeks.”
Sunday’s race just off the shores of the Makuhari Beach was the first ever in Japan and the 60th Red Bull Air Race since the sport was launched in 2003. It was warmly embraced by in Chiba, the birthplace of civil aviation in Japan. A record-breaking 120,000 tickets were sold for the two days of racing action and there was heavy media coverage all week.
The next Red Bull Air Race will be in Rovinj, Croatia on May 30/31.
Results: 1. Paul Bonhomme (GBR), 2. Matt Hall (AUS), 3. Matthias Dolderer (GER), 4. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA), 5. Nigel Lamb (GBR), 6. Michael Goulian (USA), 7. Kirby Chambliss (USA), 8. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN), 9. Juan Velarde (ESP), 10. Martin Sonka (CZE), 11. Hannes Arch (AUT), 12. Pete McLeod (CAN), 13. Peter Besenyei (HUN), 14. Francois Le Vot (FRA)
World Championship Standings: 1. Bonhomme (24 points), 2. Hall (18), 3. Lamb (8), 4. Dolderer (7) 5. McLeod (7), 6. Ivanoff (6). 7. Arch (5), 8. Muroya (4), 9. Goulian (3), 10 Besenyei (2), 11. Chambliss (2), 12. Velarde (0), 13. Sonka (0), 14. Le Vot (0).