American Mike Mangold (Team Cobra) is the 2007 Red Bull Air Race World Series champion, winning a thriller in Perth on Sunday 4 November against arch rival Paul Bonhomme (GBR/Matador) only after the dust settled at the end of the 10th and final stop of the international motor sport championship before a frenzied crowd of 200,000.
The 52-year-old Californian pulled off the triumph after an improbable comeback, erasing a two-point deficit by taking third place in Perth. Championship leader Bonhomme had to settle for fifth place — his worst result in 2007 and the first time the Brit failed to get on the podium — and ended up the 2007 runner-up even though he and Mangold both finished with the same number of points - 47. Bonhomme had to concede defeat only after six levels of tie-breakers were exhausted.
Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA/Team M.R.T.) took advantage of the opening at the top that Bonhomme and Mangold provided when they both appeared to show some nerves, grabbing his first race victory of the season. By beating American Michael Goulian in the final under the bright blue skies of the pulsating Western Australian city, Ivanoff also became the fifth different winner in this most competitive Red Bull Air Race season ever. Ivanoff surprised the field with the best time of the day in the final — 1:15.15 minutes.
Yet the focus in Perth was on the championship that went down to the wire. Mangold, the 2005 champion, had to beat Bonhomme in the quarter-finals and he knew his long-shot hopes for the championship hinged on that. The Brit went first and put in a good time but Mangold was even faster.
The pressure was still on Mangold. He knew he would have to get on the podium. Yet he was soundly defeated in the semi-final by Ivanoff after a surprisingly shaky run as temperatures climbed to 30 degrees. But Mangold won the consolation final for third place against Alejandro Maclean - to raise his season total to 47 points and equalize Bonhomme’s total. They both also had the same number of firsts, seconds, thirds, fourths and fifths as well as the same number of firsts in elimination rounds. It wasn’t until the next tie-breaker in the rule book — the number of "seconds" in elimination rounds — that Mangold (2) edged Bonhomme (1).
Peter Besenyei (HUN/Team Red Bull) took third place in the championship after finishing second in both 2005 and 2006. Bonhomme and his Matador teammate Steve Jones were able to celebrate winning the team championship (64 points) ahead of Team Red Bull with Besenyei and American Kirby Chambliss (59 points) while Team Cobra with Mangold and Hannes Arch of Austria came third (50 points).
"I’m incredibly happy," said Mangold. "The title landed in my lap in the last minute. I really wasn’t expecting it. It was a long and extremely difficult year. We had some problems during the course of the season, but the team didn’t stick its head in the sand. We worked hard on becoming successful again." Bonhomme, who got thunderous applause from the big crowd, kept a stiff upper lip. "It was a constant battle with Mike all season and at the end of the day he was the luckier pilot. It could hardly be any closer than that. It’s incredible."
Source: Red Bull Air Race
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