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BRIT Paul Bonhomme - now writing an exclusive column for LOOP - is dominating qualifying for the first round of the 2008 Red Bull World Air Race Series, being held in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
10 APR 08: BONHOMME TOPS QUALIFYING
Bonhomme has set an amazing time of 1min 3.95sec round the Abu Dhabi seafront course, well ahead of his nearest rival, American Kirby Chambliss, who posted a best a best of 1min 7.25sec - a staggering 3.3 seconds behind.
Defending champion Mike Mangold (USA) took third, 3.84 seconds behind Bonhomme while Hungary's Peter Besenyei was fourth, 4.10 seconds back._
Bonhomme is making the most of his modified plane (read more about this in the latest edition of LOOP, just out). After dominating all three training sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday, last year's championship runner-up was again in a class of his own on Thursday.
"It went quite well," said Bonhomme with typical understatement. "I'm really pleased."
With the exception of Spain's Alejandro Maclean, who was able to put down a faster time in Qualifying 2, the other 11 pilots struggled in the stronger late afternoon winds that gusted up to up to 12 knots.
"The wind changed on us and we had a lot of problems with it," said Mangold. "It's not surprising that just about everyone had a faster time in the first run."
Austria's Hannes Arch delivered one of the major surprises of the day. With his new Edge 540, Arch snatched fifth place despite a three-second penalty. Without penalties he could have qualified as high as second place, 2.98 seconds behind Bonhomme.
The Super Eights on Friday will be made up of: Bonhomme, Chambliss, Mangold, Besenyei, Arch, Jones, Maclean and Lamb.
The battle for Point One, where the four slowest pilots in qualifying will battle it out for one point in the championship, will start at 3pm on Friday. In that competition are: Rakhmanin, Ivanoff, Dell and Goulian.
The top eight pilots follow in the Super Eights, with the winners of those races advancing to the Semi Finals.
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