Abu Dhabi: Reigning world champion Paul Bonhomme is confident of continuing his form as the season-opening race of Red Bull Air Race World Championship takes off at the capital on Friday.
The teams, who had been focusing on preparations at a training camp in Ras Al Khaimah, have now converged in Abu Dhabi and the lightweight aircraft in which they will be pulling off astounding manoeuvres now occupy pride of place at the airport in Mina Zayed.
In the opening race, 12 of the world’s best race pilots will navigate a low-level aerial track made up of air-filled pylons 25 metres high at speeds of up to 370 km/h.
“I am very excited to be here again in Abu Dhabi to compete in this thrilling race. I won’t like to say that I’m still the reigning champion as we are starting all over again. I will consider myself as a pilot who has to prove himself again. However, I’m keen to defend my title,” said Bonhomme, who claimed victory here twice in 2008 and 2010.
In the Masters Class, Bonhomme will be facing a stiff challenge from veteran Peter Besenyei who has plenty of flying experience in Abu Dhabi.
“This is the ninth time that I visit Abu Dhabi — twice as a tourist and seven times as a Red Bull Air Race pilot,” said Besenyei, who has also claimed victory here in 2005 and 2007.
Speaking on the occasion, Erich Wolf, CEO of Red Bull Air Race said that the inaugural race in Abu Dhabi underlines the UAE capital’s position as one of the world’s premier sports locations and reflects the success of previous races held in the UAE.
“We’re very happy to be here again in Abu Dhabi to inaugurate the new season. There’s no better place than Abu Dhabi as we’ve already had six fantastic races here. The city has been a great host for the Red Bull Air Race. We can’t think of a better way to start the new season.”
Speaking on behalf of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), Faisal Al Shaikh, Director, Events Bureau said: “This race is a welcome addition to Abu Dhabi’s ever-growing events calendar spanning over the cultural, sporting, heritage, arts and entertainment scene. This is an event not just for the motorsports or aviation enthusiast — but one that can be enjoyed by all the family in an unbeatable setting.”
“It brings heightened impetus to a very active Q1 for the emirate and gives us a remarkable opportunity to showcase the beauty and accessibility of our magnificent corniche. Once again, TCA Abu Dhabi has partnered with a world-class organiser to deliver events of the highest calibre,” Al Shaikh added.