Kirby Chambliss has been coming on strong, but suffered a setback as the Red Bull Air Race World Championship returned to Porto, Portugal. The two-time champ from Texas aims to win a third title, but missed a chance to get a firm grip on that 2017 trophy with two races to go after taking a final-round gate penalty on Sept. 3.
Chambliss, resurgent in 2017 after a few lackluster years of Red Bull racing, had won the two previous races, and could have held onto the top spot in the season standings but for a small error in the ninth gate of the final run of the day: As a crowd of 600,000 looked on from the banks of the Douro River, judges in race control tagged Chambliss with a two-second penalty that dropped him from first place to fourth. Canada’s Pete McLeod slipped past Chambliss into second place in the season standings with a second-place finish in Porto; the race win went to Martin Sonka of the Czech Republic, who flew the fastest run of the day and leads the 2017 championship standings with two races to go.
The bear was also unkind to fellow American Michael Goulian, who qualified fifth but lost his head-to-head matchup against Mikael Brageot of France by just over a tenth of a second, 1:08.371 against Brageot’s 1:08.243.
“I did what I wanted to do and flew a clean run. In hindsight, it might have been a hair too soft in one of the VTMs, and that made the difference,” Goulian told Red Bull media. He told his social media followers that the result was disappointing, but also an opportunity.
“We’ve learned a lot over the course of the season. There are days when you go out there and everything just works. Then there are days when you come away with lessons learned and that only helps prepare you for the next race where you will enter into it stronger than ever because you have that much more experience to stand upon.”
That next opportunity will arrive Sept. 16 and 17 in Lausitz, Germany, the penultimate contest of 2017. The season ends in Indianapolis in October, and AOPA members can purchase discounted tickets (and find other resources) online.
American Kevin Coleman, who flies in the Challenger Cup series where pilots hone their skills and hope to earn a spot in the main event, notched his first race win in a year.