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Hannes Arch Wins Red Bull Air Race In Abu Dhabi

Home favourite and defending world champion Hannes Arch got his title defence off to a stunning start by claiming first blood in the opening round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi today.

The Austrian, racing under the sponsorship of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), turned on the style in the four-man final recording the fastest time of the weekend - 1m:24.60s - to win the third race of his career by less than a second from last year’s Abu Dhabi champion Paul Bonhomme of Great Britain (1m:25.49s).

Held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, National Security Advisor, a thrilling final saw Frenchman Nicolas Ivanoff - the fastest qualifier - claim third place (1m:26.34s) with Briton Nigel Lamb in fourth (1m:26.63s).

Watched by an enthralled audience of more than 100,000 spectators, Arch saved his best run to last after an error in the pre-final Super 8s nearly saw him miss out on a place in the final. But with the very last run of an action-packed opening round, the 41 year-old Team Abu Dhabi pilot roared his 340HP Edge 540 aircraft on to the 6.8km course at a speed of 367kph before producing a flawless performance to prevent Bonhomme making it back-to-back wins in the UAE capital.

"The ?home’ favourite tag may have hindered most pilots but not Hannes; he has shown nerves of steel to hold off the competition and claim a debut triumph for Team Abu Dhabi," said Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General, ADTA. "We congratulate him on winning the Red Bull Air Race of Abu Dhabi and look forward to following his progress in the series’ five remaining rounds as he takes the emirate’s name around the world." Arch was understandably delighted at getting his title defence off to a winning start. "For me it was really difficult - my most difficult race so far," he said after receiving the trophy from HH Sheikh Zayed bin Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan. "Of course, there was pressure from last year being world champion but there was also pressure from the media and the other pilots. It was also important to give a good result to my team sponsors from Abu Dhabi - a win in the opening round certainly eases that pressure." Arguably the unluckiest man of the weekend was Australian rookie Matt Hall. Competing in his first Red Bull Air Race, the 27 year-old from New South Wales was quicker than two former world champions yet still failed to make the final finishing in fifth place, just six-tenths of a second off the last four and claiming seven vital championship points.

"I’m pretty happy - I wasn’t expecting it," smiled Hall. "We have shown that the plane is a real contender. Too much too soon doesn’t really worry me - if I come last next race, it doesn’t really matter. This year is all about getting experience under my belt with a view to winning this championship in the very near future." Such is the standard of the 2009 Red Bull Air Race World Championship, the final day of the Abu Dhabi leg saw former world number one Kirby Chambliss of the USA and the legendary Peter Besenyei of Hungary fail to progress to the Super 8s, while American Mike Mangold - the only man to win this title twice - squeezed through by less than half a second before having to settle for a disappointing seventh place.

"The Abu Dhabi Red Bull Air Race continues to be an integral event in the emirate’s major events portfolio and anyone who has watched the last days racing will understand why," added Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General, ADTA.

"The 2009 World Championship’s expanded field and exciting new race format have provided the Abu Dhabi crowd with unbelievable aerial displays and unparalleled drama. Thousands of spectators, of all ages and nationalities, have lined the beaches and breakwater of Abu Dhabi city - from Heritage Village, Marina Mall and all along the public beach and Corniche - to take in this amazing spectacle.

"Logistically, the event has been a resounding success. Access to and from the event has been remarkable and the free shuttle buses have given as many people as possible the opportunity to enjoy the race. We look forward to welcoming everyone back to Abu Dhabi next year and wish all the pilots and crews the best of luck for the remainder of the Championship." The second round of the 2009 Red Bull Air Race World Championship will see the fifteen-man field take to the skies in San Diego, California on May 9-10 before heading to the Canadian city of Windsor, Hungarian capital Budapest and the Portuguese city of Porto before the championship comes to a climax in Barcelona in October.

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