Friday, 09 October 2015 14:54
LAS VEGAS, Nevada (USA) – Team Garmin’s Pete McLeod returns this weekend to the race track where he pulled off the first and only win of his Red Bull Air Race World Championship career a year ago – in Las Vegas.
The Canadian ace will be trying to avoid the small, irritating penalties that have cost him badly this season in the final race the year on Sunday. A victory in the American gaming capital could lift McLeod all the way from fifth place overall to third. Last year he was fifth overall with 38 points. This year he is fifth with 19 points.
“It’s really hard to believe it was a year ago,” said McLeod of his win here – awarded to him after heavy winds forced the cancellation of the race. McLeod had won the Qualifying session a day earlier. “It was a huge mess last year with the weather and there was a lot of pressure on me in that situation because I qualified first. We’re in a different position this year and a lot of things are different. This race is all about finishing the season on a strong note.”
McLeod has gotten on the podium just once this season, a third place in the season opener in Abu Dhabi. But he could take third overall with a win and the 12 points that come with it on Sunday. He has been hurt by an underperforming engine but also getting untimely penalties for such things as exceeding the 10g limit for a fraction of a second too long – pilots are allowed to exceed the 10g limit for just 0.5 second.
“I would like to fly penalty-free without getting some stupid over-g penalty or over-speed penalty or other kinds of calls of that nature,” said McLeod, who has also been hurt in the past for just barely exceeding the 370-kph speed limit at the start.
In the last race in Fort Worth, McLeod was having a brilliant run in the Round of Eight and came close to knocking out Britain’s Paul Bonhomme in their head-to-head heat. But McLeod exceeded the 10g limit for a fraction of a second too long and was disqualified.
“My net time on the first lap was the fastest first lap on that track ever,” said McLeod. “I really had some runs in Fort Worth that were really fast. I was ahead of Paul at that point and feel I could have beaten him out there in Texas, which would have changed things dramatically for the championship.”
Indeed, McLeod went packing and Bonhomme went on to win the race in Fort Worth to move eight points ahead of Australia’s Matt Hall, who was second in Fort Worth in the world championship race. The title race would have narrowed considerably if McLeod had beaten Bonhomme.
In the battle in Las Vegas for third place overall, Austria’s Hannes Arch leads with 30 points, Martin Sonka of the Czech Republic is in fourth with 28 points. There are three more pilots breathing down Arch’s back in the race for third – Nigel Lamb (GBR) has 20, McLeod (CAN) and Matthias Dolderer (GER) have 19 each.
“It would be nice to get third overall and hopefully I’ll fly well here,” said McLeod. “We’re already focused on 2016. We’ll be looking to put down a fast time every time I’m out in the track.”