Déjà vu for Hall as he returns to the Red Bull Air Race podium in Porto!

Australian pilot Matt Hall has broken his Red Bull Air Race World Championship podium drought with a fine third place in Porto, Portugal, the top result coming eight years after he scored his maiden air race podium, also third, at the very same venue.

The result makes Hall the 10th pilot to step onto the podium in six races this year, and leapfrogs the Aussie into the seventh in the championship standings – with the top five now within striking distance. It’s welcome return to form after sitting as low as 13th out of 14 pilots earlier in the season.

Today’s race was won by Czech pilot Martin Šonka, who resumed leadership of the world championship race thanks to his second victory in 2017, while Canada’s Pete McLeod continued to show dogged consistency with a second-place finish.

With a new plane and a new team, the trials and tribulations of Matt Hall Racing have been well documented in 2017. From racing a rental aircraft in the season opener, to unfortunate judging results in Japan, Hall and his team have had their work cut out for them. After putting in the hard yards, Hall was quick to praise the group effort that allowed him to once again dice for a spot on the dais.

“It’s good to be back, we’ve had a rough year and ever since we found the crack on the MXS fuel tank (former race airplane, damaged in Las Vegas 2016) it’s been an uphill battle. We’ve changed the plane, we’ve changed the team and this week the team gelled the best it has all year,” Hall smiled.

“At the start of the year the plan was to build up throughout the year and in the second half work on getting better results. It’s actually a bit of déjà vu to come back to Porto, where I had my first career podium of third and this time I have my first career podium in a new plane – and it’s third!”

The day came down to a battle between four pilots with Šonka, American Kirby Chambliss, McLeod and Hall, who flew in that order. In a pressure filled final, it was Chambliss who was the first to crack and incurred a penalty, providing Hall with the luxury of deciding if he should shoot for the win, or safeguard a podium.

“I was just happy to be in the Final 4,” Hall beamed.

“It’s the first time in almost a year that I’ve been there, and it was good to be able to back off a little bit in the round of four and secure a podium.

“I heard Kirby’s penalty over the radio and thought, you know what, let’s not blow it, let’s not be greedy and get the podium.

“In the final four, it was the most relaxed round that I flew, I had a chance to look down and there was an amazing amount of people down there. The streets looked like they were filled with 10 football stadiums worth of people.

“I took in the environment and it was just a really cool thing today.”

With a boost of confidence – and trophy to boot – Hall now has just a fortnight to prepare for the seventh round of the world championship at the Eurospeedway Lausitz in Germany. The race will take place from September 16-17 at the venue that’s just 90 minutes south of Berlin.

(Image courtesy Predrag Vuckovic)