It was a heart-stopping day for North American fans of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship on Sunday, as neither Pete McLeod (CAN) nor Kirby Chambliss (USA) advanced to the Final 4 at the season’s penultimate stop in Germany’s Lausitzring. But their results were enough to keep them in the thick of the title fight. With only the season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway left, they’re among just four contenders with a chance for the crown.
Japan’s Yoshihide Muroya launched himself to second overall by taking the Lausitzring win. Australia’s Matt Hall finished the race in second, and in clinching third place, Martin Šonka of the Czech Republic held on to the top of the overall leaderboard – but barely. McLeod and Chambliss just missed the Final 4, finishing fifth and sixth.
“Definitely it was a little disappointing, but at the same time, it was a very exciting flight for me. There was a lot at stake, and it was really energizing,” said McLeod, who lost to Šonka in the Round of 8 by just 0.302s. “I made him work for it, and he flew well to beat me. Whatever happens at Indy, I want to fly a good race and focus on finishing the season on a high note.”
The Lausitzring results have guaranteed that the season finale at Indianapolis will be unmissable. Here’s the lowdown on the four pilots who could seize the World Championship at the famous “Brickyard” speedway: At the top of the overall leaderboard, Šonka has 63 points. Muroya is just 4 points back with 59. And McLeod is well within reach at 56. Each will be determined to capture what would be their first overall title and the first for their country. Meanwhile, at 52 points Chambliss retains the possibility to overthrow them all, and the American will have the advantage of home crowd support as well as his experience earning two previous titles.
Chambliss commented, “I’m really looking forward to Indianapolis. Like we’ve always said, you’ve got to fly great, you’ve got to have a great team, and you’ve got to have a fast airplane, but a little luck every now and then helps, too. We’ve missed out on that [luck] these last couple of races, but we’re going to Indy and we’ll try to tear it up and do what we always do – try to win races.”
Another American pilot, Michael Goulian, was eliminated due to time penalties despite delivering the best net time in the Round of 14. Goulian explained that his aggressive flying was part of his team’s strategy, noting, “We came here to win this race, and we had more penalties because I was flying on the edge. That was the mantra – let’s fly as hard as we can – and that’s what we’re going to do at Indianapolis.”
Now the race teams and their fans have four high-pressure weeks to wait until the season reaches its climax at Indianapolis on 14-15 October.
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Results Master Class Lausitzring 2017:
1. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN), 2. Matt Hall (AUS), 3. Martin Šonka (CZE), 4. Juan Velarde (ESP), 5. Pete McLeod (CAN), 6. Kirby Chambliss (USA), 7. Mikaël Brageot (FRA), 8. Petr Kopfstein (CZE), 9. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA), 10. François Le Vot (FRA), 11. Cristian Bolton (CHI), 12. Matthias Dolderer (GER), 13. Peter Podlunšek (SLO), 14. Michael Goulian (USA)
World Championship standings after seven of eight races: 1. Martin Šonka (CZE) 63 points, 2. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 59 pts, 3. Pete McLeod (CAN) 56 pts, 4. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 52 pts, 5. Matt Hall (AUS) 37 pts, 6. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 37 pts, 7. Juan Velarde (ESP) 28 pts, 8. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 27 pts, 9. Michael Goulian (USA) 24 pts, 10. Mikaël Brageot (FRA) 19 pts, 11. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 16 pts, 12. Peter Podlunšek (SLO) 14 pts, 13. François Le Vot (FRA) 9 pts, 14. Cristian Bolton (CHI) 7 pts