As the Red Bull Air Race World Championship returns to Ascot Racecourse for the third consecutive year on 13-14 August, the outcome is uncertain, but one thing is clear: whoever stands on the top of the podium at the legendary track will be doing so for the first time. With the retirement of Britain’s own two-time Ascot winner and three-time world champion Paul Bonhomme, the race for the title is wide open this year. A confident German, a charging Austrian and 12 more elite pilots will be eager to enter the ranks of winners at the historic racecourse – none more than another British hero, Nigel Lamb.
With Ascot in the air, the race teams have intensified their preparations. The fifth race of 2016 begins the second half of the season, and for Germany’s Matthias Dolderer at the top of the leaderboard, it’s an opportunity to shore up his advantage of 15.25 points over 2008 world champion Hannes Arch of Austria. Galloping just a nose (0.75 of a point) behind Arch is another world champion, the two-time titleholder Kirby Chambliss. Not one of the three pilots at the top of the standings has ever stood on the Ascot podium.
Nigel Lamb has. At the Red Bull Air Race debut at Ascot in 2014, Lamb claimed second place, making it a one-two sweep with Bonhomme to the delight of the home crowd, and he went on to clinch a world championship for himself. While Lamb has announced that he’ll be retiring at the end of this season, the Breitling Racing Team pilot is still running flat out and has earned one 2016 podium already. He makes no secret of his ambition to win at Ascot before he hangs up his racing gloves.
“What a wonderful season Matthias Dolderer is having, though thankfully, he’s still beatable” Lamb said with a good-natured smile. “I love over-land tracks and Ascot has it all; the history of the venue, the intimate setting with the crowd; trees, water and pylons all flashing past at 90 m/sec . . . the sensation of speed is fantastic and it goes without saying that the British fans are second to none. The pressure’s on for a home win, and I’m looking forward to giving it my all to be on the top step of the podium!
The Union Jack will also be waving for Ben Murphy, a former Team Leader of the famed Royal Air Force Aerobatic team the Red Arrows. As a fresh face in the Challenger Class designed to build the skills of up-and-coming racing pilots, Murphy is hungry to add to the six points he’s already acquired in Challenger Cup competition.
Tickets for the critical second half of the 2016 Red Bull Air Race World Championship season, including Ascot on 13–14 August, are on sale now. For information on tickets and all the latest, visit www.redbullairrace.com.