Aussie pilot Hall: Bring on the technical challenge in Russian air race

The second half of the 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championship tees off with a stop in Kazan, Russia this weekend and Australia’s Matt Hall is relishing the opportunity to be flying in a technically challenging track for the first time this season.

Following four events spanning Abu Dhabi (UAE), San Diego (USA), Chiba (JPN) and most recently Budapest (HUN), Hall has shown flashes of speed, but is yet to record a strong result. Now the series moves to Russia for the first time and predictions on who will triumph come Sunday, are as difficult to make as ever.

Japanese pilot Yoshi Muroya currently leads the standings, with Czech Pilot Martin Šonka not far behind, both benefitting from incredibly fast aircraft that have been diligently developed by their teams. However this weekend Kazan will present a track that will reward technical nous, not just the pilot with the fastest chariot, and Hall hopes to be right in the mix.

“This race should have more technical challenge for the pilots, and that usually suits our team,” Hall said following Thursday test flying.

“When pilot technique is required I am confident that we can do well, as opposed to the past few events where it is just about flying fast. In Japan and Budapest in particular it was a case of the fastest aircraft was best placed to win.

“This race we’re in a tighter, more turning track than the past two events. The second round of the series in San Diego had a few turns, but not as much as we will have here.”

The importance of deviating from the drag race style tracks can’t be underestimated for Hall and his team, as they continue to develop a brand-new aircraft. While 11th in the points standings is nothing to crow about, Hall added that the season can be considered a success so far.

“Our rank doesn’t reflect how we are going as a team. Every race we are modifying our plane, we are learning something new and we are getting closer to the point where I am comfortable in it and love flying it,” he said.

“We are not where we want to be yet. But our goal from the start of the year was to develop ourselves into a race winning package by the end of the season. That is still our plan, and we would like to hit 2018 at full tilt so we are challenging for race wins.

“The thing we need most at the moment is more time in the plane to learn where the limits are. That will help us avoid situations like we had in Budapest where a lack of time in the plane meant we had to use the race as a test session.”

Despite this weekend being the first true test of the pilots’ technical ability for 2017, Muroya and Šonka will remain firm favourites. Also coming in with high aspirations will be 2016 world champion Matthias Dolderer (DEU) and veteran Kirby Chambliss (USA), who won the most recent race in Budapest.

The inaugural Red Bull Air Race event in Russia will begin with qualifying on Saturday July 22 at 11pm AEST. Coverage if race day will commence at just before 7pm AEST on Saturday July 22, 2017. Race day will commence at 5:55pm AEST on Sunday July 23.