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Motor sports: French flier wins air race at TMS

Profile image for By Matt Crider
By Matt Crider

FORT WORTH — The races at Texas Motor Speedway took to the skies over the weekend, and Frenchman Nicolas Ivanoff rallied on his last lap Sunday to win Round 6 of this year’s Red Bull Air Race competition.

Four pilots advanced to the day’s final round of racing in the elite Master Class division. Ivanoff was the third to make his run, and he began his second of two laps with a deficit of three-tenths of a second to Britain’s Nigel Lamb. Ivanoff sped around and through the course’s inflatable pylons and finished with a time of 54.118 seconds, just beating Lamb’s 54.253.

Canadian Pete McLeod matched Ivanoff’s first lap but lost time and finished third in 54.666. German Matthias Dolderer was fourth with a 55.208.

The course began with a twin-pylon gate where the planes entered TMS in turn 3 of the asphalt oval. The pilots weaved around three single pylons in the middle of the infield, flew through a gate on the south end of the track and climbed skyward to make a vertical turn. Heading back north, they had to dip low enough to go through another gate along the backstretch before taking a gate above the Denton County sign between turns 3 and 4.

After making a sharp right, they circled back around and crossed through the start gate for a second lap. The entire run was about 6 kilometers.

The pylons are 82 feet tall, with a 33-foot zone at the top where the planes must pass. The pilots must start each run under a speed limit of 230 mph, and at no time are allowed to exceed a 10G flight load.

“This one was the smallest [track] of the season so far. We had no time to think about something between the gate and [the chicane],” Ivanoff said. “You have no time to see the gate.”

With all the hectic action, Ivanoff said it was hard to know whether he was off the pace of the leader. He may have gotten a little help from Big Hoss TV, the track’s world-record video board.

“I cannot see if I’m in the red,” Ivanoff said. “I try and look on the [screen].”

Ivanoff flies an Edge 540 V2 and picked up his first win of the year.

“Clearly he flew better than I did,” said Lamb, who was one of just two to fly an American-made MXS-R. “I’m very happy that we were on the right path, but it’s just so easy to make a couple of small mistakes additional to the ones I already made today and you just get no points.”

Lamb, in posting his third consecutive runner-up finish after a victory in Malaysia, moved into a tie for second place in the series standings.

Corpus Christi native Kirby Chambliss was eliminated in Sunday’s first round. The 12 pilots faced off in six two-plane heat races. Chambliss flew his Edge 540 V3 to a two-lap time of 56.952 seconds, and Martin Sonka of the Czech Republic followed with a 56.447 in the same model, from American firm Zivko Aeronautics.

The course had slowed from the first three heats, and despite being three seconds off the pace of the previous winners, Chambliss lost by just half a second.

“I’m super disappointed in myself. I’m super disappointed for my fans. Everybody came out here to support me,” Chambliss said. “Whether it was me, whether it was the plane, I don’t know.”

Chambliss is a two-time world champion, taking the series title in 2004 and 2006. He began his aerobatics career in 1985 after flying for Southwest Airlines.

“It’s my home state. I can’t say how disappointed I am,” he said. “It’s one of those four-letter words I’m not going to say.”

The other American in the series, Michael Goulian of Plymouth, Massachusetts, also failed to advance to the second round. In the sixth heat, Goulian posted a 57.180 before Ontario’s McLeod raced to a 54.343, easily the largest difference between a heat winner and loser.

The Canadian also flies a 540 V3, while Goulian’s earlier V2 carries a lower thrust-to-weight ratio and higher drag figures.

In the eight-plane second round, season points leader Hannes Arch of Austria and second-place Paul Bonhomme of Britain were eliminated. Heat races no longer part of the show, the remaining pilots each made a two-lap run.

Bonhomme recorded a 55.192, missing the final round by one position and about half a second. He earned four points for his fifth-place finish, and Arch claimed one point for an eighth-place effort after absorbing a two-second penalty for failing to fly level through the north gate on his first lap.

Bonhomme increased his season total to 45 points and took the championship lead from Arch, who now is tied with Lamb one point behind as the series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October. The eighth and final round is scheduled for Spielberg, Austria.

Ivanoff moved up one spot to fifth in the standings and is one point out of fourth.

Briefly …

Mikael Brageot of France won Saturday’s race in the Challenger Cup class, the Triple-A level of Red Bull Air Race competition. Cristian Bolton, an officer in the Chilean air force, finished second. … Master Class qualifying was canceled Saturday because of high winds and the threat of thunderstorms.

MATT CRIDER can be reached at 940-566-6906.