Air Racing: Can Australia’s Hall finally win it all?

Courtesy of Red Bull Air Race Media Service

With victory at Lake Balaton, Hungary on July 14, Australian Matt Hall put himself squarely in contention for the title with only September’s season finale left to go. After earning four World Championship podiums without attaining the top step, Hall has just one more chance to claim the trophy. He is aiming to make the most of it.

Having joined the World Championship in 2009, Hall is in his eighth season, and his record of 24 race podiums including seven wins makes him the most successful Red Bull Air Race pilot never to have won a season title. But he has come very, very close.

The former Royal Australian Air Force Wing Commander captured his inaugural World Championship podium (third place) in his debut season, something no rookie has managed to do before or since. In 2015, Hall was the only pilot challenging British legend Paul Bonhomme right down to the final race, finishing second overall. It was a similar story in 2016, when he was again runner-up behind winner Matthias Dolderer (GER). And last season, he took the number-two spot once more, missing out on the grail to Martin Šonka (CZE) by just 0.304s in the final round.

“Becoming World Champion, that’s a dream, it’s not a goal. I don’t think you should put a timeline on a dream. Because your dream becomes a nightmare,” Hall said before the 2019 opener in Abu Dhabi. “Am I going to become world champion this year? It would be awesome, but I can’t control that. I will continue to work toward my dream.”

Given engine problems at that opening stop, it is impressive that Matt Hall Racing is in the title hunt at all. They somehow managed fifth place, but 2017 World Champion Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) and the defending titleholder Šonka finished first and second, taking the top spots in the overall standings.

Then, with the May announcement that the Red Bull Air Race would not continue past an abbreviated four-race 2019 season, Hall’s mindset toward his World Championship dream seemed to shift. It is now or never, and after seizing second place in Kazan, Russia, where he finished between Muroya and Šonka, he was not coy about declaring, “My theory with this being a four-race season is that you need to win two and podium one. Yoshi has already won two, so I’ve got to win the next two to be World Champion.” 

In the Red Bull Air Race debut at Lake Balaton, Hall made good on his intentions, though not without ups and downs. He topped the only Free Practice session only to log worrying penalties in Qualifying that put him head-to-head against Muroya in Race Day’s opening round. There, Muroya blinked, with Hall outpacing him by 1.784s, and in the Final 4, Šonka tripped up as well, and would have finished behind the Australian even without a pylon-hit penalty.

Now, Hall finds himself in a familiar position, battling for the title at the last race. He won’t be going into that September stop with the overall lead, but in the previous two seasons, the crown has gone to the pilot coming into the finale at second overall anyway. And second place is exactly where the Australian sits, with Šonka at 65 points to 61 for Hall and 55 for Muroya. There is a maximum of 28 points on tap for a top result in the final race (25 for the win plus 3 for the best Qualifying time), making the trio the only ones with a chance for the championship, although others will still be fighting for an overall podium position.

Also troubling for Hall’s opponents: Once he wins one race, he tends to triumph at the next, as well. In 2018, his two season victories were consecutive, and in 2016, he took back-to-back golds as well. As for season finale venue of Chiba, Muroya won there in 2016 and 2017, but Hall prevailed there last year.

Looking ahead, Hall says, “This will be my fifth fight for the World Championship title. I know what that’s like, and to tell the truth, I’m not looking forward to the two weeks leading into Chiba, because it’s always stressful, but the day itself is always super exciting. The reward is there, I’ve just got to go get it.”

Witness the final battle for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship 2019 in Chiba, Japan on 7-8 September. For ticket information and updates, visit www.redbullairrace.com.

Red Bull Air Race 2019 Calendar
8-9 February: Abu Dhabi, UAE
15-16 June: Kazan, Russia
13-14 July: Lake Balaton, Hungary
7-8 September: Chiba, Japan

About Red Bull Air Race
The Red Bull Air Race World Championship is an aerial motorsport series that demands a combination of speed, precision and skill. Using the fastest, most agile, high performance raceplanes, pilots compete in iconic locations over water and land. The high speed, low altitude and extreme manoeuvrability required make it accessible only to the world’s most exceptional pilots.

Flying just metres from the ground, 14 Master Class pilots race against the clock whilst reaching speeds of up to 370 km/h, requiring a combination of precision and skill unmatched in the world of aviation. Pilots must be in peak physical condition as they endure forces up to 12G while navigating the technical racetracks made up of air-filled pylons.

The Air Race was developed in 2003 and is accredited by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), with more than 90 races completed across five continents. As the most advanced aerial challenge in existence, competing in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship is the highest accolade for elite pilots. The Challenger Cup feeder series was introduced in 2014. 

For more visit www.redbullairracenewsroom.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.