Halim Othman of Malaysia won the Challenger Cup race and Canada's Pete McLeod was the top qualifier in the Master class during Saturday's opening round of the inaugural Red Bull Air Race World Championship at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
McLeod posted a two-lap time of 49.588 seconds on his second qualifying pass. On his first run, he became the first pilot of the day to break the 50-second barrier with a pass of 49.864. Nigel Lamb of Great Britain was the second-quickest qualifier with a time of 49.734 on his first qualifying run and Germany's Matthias Dolderer was third quickest at 50.016.
It was the fourth qualifying win of the season for the 30-year-old McLeod, who has parlayed that success into only one podium finish in the first six rounds of the eight-round series.
"This is becoming a bit of a familiar spot, which I don't think is something to complain about," McLeod said of his qualifying effort. "My strategy for tomorrow is I just need to go out there and fly. I think the biggest thing I've been working on is trying not to ask too much out of myself and my flying and my times because the speed is there."
Australia's Matt Hall (50.036) and Austrian Hannes Arch (50.291) rounded out the top five heading into Sunday's Master class races. American pilots Michael Goulian and Kirby Chambliss, a two-time world champion, qualified 10th and 11th, respectively, out of 12 pilots.
"I'm pretty disappointed in the results for the qualifying," Chambliss said. "I had some 50-second runs in training so we'll definitely be watching some tape and try to figure out where we lost those two seconds. We're going to go out there and be optimistic and just push as hard as I can like I always do to try to win this."
Red Bull Air Race World Championship points leader Paul Bonhomme qualified seventh as the top six pilots were separated by less than a second.
Othman, who earned his second Challenger Cup win of 2014, was the first pilot to run in Saturday's race and laid down a pass of 58.480 seconds that none of the other five pilots could surpass.
"For this race, I was a bit cautious on the practice rounds, so what I did is keep on doing the correct line, improving bit by bit - that was my approach to this track," Othman said.
Petr Kopfstein of the Czech Republic was second at 58.940 and France's Mikael Brageot took third at 59.408. Spain's Juan Velarde, Poland's Luke Czepiela, and France's Francois Le Vot rounded out the Challenger Cup finishing order.
Racing resumes Sunday with action in the Master class. Spectator gates open at 10 a.m. and several side acts will entertain the crowd before racing begins at 12:20 p.m.