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26 February 2024

Ace Veres flies to victory in finale

Faris Al Sultan, Swen Sundberg, Rachel Joyce and Pete Jacobson attempt to match the lightning-quick speeds of radio-controlled supermodel aircraft taking to the skies at the Al Ain Aerobatic Show yesterday (SUPPLIED)

By Staff Writer

In a nail-biting finale to four days of aerial amazement, Zoltan Veres of Hungry took top honours in the Al Ain Aerobatic Show's Aero GP competition – an aerobatics triathlon regarded as aviation's answer to the Formula One.

Spectators packed the main grandstand to capacity to watch six of the world's top aviators, flying six of the world's top competition aircraft, demonstrate their gravity-defying skills over the rolling red sands around Al Ain International Airport. And they were not disappointed, as flying-ace Veres showed why he is regarded as one of the world's top aerobatic pilots with a stunning wire-to-wire victory to claim his second title in Al Ain.

Accepting his prize from Faisal Al Sheikh, Head of Major Event's Division at Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, which organises the Al Ain Aerobatic Show in conjunction with the UAE Air Force, Veres said it had been both a tough and exhilarating competition.

"Winning is always great, but in this event I felt that all six of us were winners. However, fortune smiled on me today rather than the others," he added.

Veres said it was his fifth visit to Al Ain and each year the hospitality exceeds the previous year. "This was a great show and a great honour for me to be invited to participate," he said.

With three disciplines – pylon racing, simulated dog-fighting and precision aerobatics – included in the competition, the final day was expected to be a major crowd draw.

Enigmatic Veres threw down the gauntlet to his rivals early after notching up a hat-trick of wins during Friday's qualifying rounds.

The victories clearly gave Veres a psychological edge over his rivals – a fact compounded by the Hungarian's advantage of being able to choose where to start in the air race and precision aerobatics events. With the tide in Veres' favour, the Aero GP chasing pack had to employ some interesting tactics if they were to topple the front-runner.

The most notable risk-taker was England's Andy Bickmore, who opted to start at the back of the grid for the air race – which is unique to international aerobatic competitions in that all six contestants are pitted against one another at the same time. Hedging for the possibility he may be behind going into the final competition, Bickmore was hoping the added points received for overtaking could push him to the top of the leaderboard.

But despite the pilot's best efforts, Veres soared ahead in the day's final race, lapping the field to complete his dominance of the weekend's events.

The Aero GP provided a fitting climax to what has been four days of aerial master-class, gravity-defying manoeuvres, never-before-seen displays and a wealth of interactive activities for the entire family.

With its largest and most diverse line-up in its eight-year history, including 23 international teams from 15 countries, the Al Ain Aerobatic Show kept fans entertained from the inaugural take-off to the final landing.

For the first time globally, Al Ain showcased the pioneering triple synchronised inverted parachute drop by the South African Goodyear Eagles Aero Team. In this spectacular routine, three parachutists exited their Pitts Special S2B biplanes simultaneously at the top of a loop and parachuted to the ground
to applause.


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