Red Bull Air Race: Goulian best of the best in Cannes Qualifying
A sold-out crowd in Cannes witnessed the most heart-stopping Qualifying session in the history of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship on Saturday, as pilot after pilot jumped to the top of the standings. Finally, as the last to fly, Michael Goulian of the USA seized his first-ever pole.
Another American, Kirby Chambliss, clocked the day’s fastest single lap in finishing second, with Australia’s Matt Hall in third. Sunday’s first-ever Red Bull Air Race in France will be one for the ages.
The chance to make history as the pilot to win the Red Bull Air Race World Championship debut in France sparked a mind-bending Qualifying session on the Riviera, as the track record fell six times – including Goulian surpassing himself by an unbelievable one-thousandth of a second with 57.074 in his first Qualifying run and 57.073 in his second.
Chambliss was 0.116 behind, Hall just off the pace by 0.121, and altogether the 12 pilots who completed their runs without a “Did Not Finish” (DNF) penalty were within a tight two seconds, to the delight of 38,000 spectators.
Look for high drama when the race takes off on Sunday: Goulian is the current leader in the World Championship after winning the season opener in Abu Dhabi, and in his 10th full season, he is on a mission to capture his first overall crown. Chambliss is looking for this third season title in the sport, while Hall is hungry after twice finishing second in the standings.
Germany’s Matthias Dolderer, who placed fourth in Qualifying, is another former World Champion looking for a comeback, while nipping at his heels in fifth was France’s own Mika Brageot, who at 30 is the youngest pilot in the field and eager to shine for his home crowd. Not to be forgotten, reigning World Champion Yoshihide Muroya was just two-thousands of a second behind Brageot, and will undoubtedly be a powerful force in the race.
A happy Goulian stated, “To be honest, I didn’t expect to win Quali here today. It seemed to take longer to adjust to this track. I think if we can do this again tomorrow, we’ll be sitting pretty. That’s the goal – to keep everyone chasing us.”
Qualifying results determine the head-to-head matchups for Race Day’s opening Round of 14. As the day’s fastest, Goulian will meet British pilot Ben Murphy, who incurred a DNF in Qualifying for exceeding Maximum G. In a sure nailbiter, Chambliss, fourth overall in 2017, will face off with that season’s second-place finisher, the Czech Republic’s Martin Šonka. Another key matchup will be Muroya against Canada’s Pete McLeod.
In other Qualifying news, it was Chambliss who earned the DHL Fastest Lap Award. At each race, the award goes to the pilot who has clocked the fastest single lap among all of the two-lap Qualifying runs, and at the end of the season, the pilot with the most awards across the eight races is presented with the DHL Fastest Lap trophy.
Catch the action at the Croisette! Tickets for the 2018 Red Bull Air Race World Championship – including the historic race in Cannes, France on Sunday, 22 April 2018 – are on sale now. For more information on tickets, the Cannes start list, and all the latest, visit www.redbullairrace.com.
Photo credit: Mihai Stetcu/Red Bull Content Pool