Hall exceeds expectations, races into the points at Red Bull Air Race opener

Australia’s Matt Hall has put his Red Bull Air Race competitors on notice after claiming 10th place and a championship point, while flying an underpowered rental aircraft at the season opener in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Forced to fly an interim plane, last raced in 2008, while he awaits delivery of his new aircraft, Hall came into the race opening ‘Round of 14’ aware of his speed deficiency. However that didn’t deter the Aussie from his mission to fly clean and hope for a good result, no matter how unlikely it would be.

Flying head to head against American Mike Goulian, Hall produced a run of the track as planned to record a smooth lap without penalties. Meanwhile Goulian took a conservative approach to finish just over a second ahead of Hall, knocking him out of the contest.

Despite missing out on the ‘Round of 8’, Hall sat in 10th place after his head to head against Goulian with just two competitors to run. As luck would have it, Slovenian pilot Peter Podlunsek was disqualified for crossing a safety line in the very next heat, handing Hall a world championship point in the process.

With a more favourable result than expected, Hall said that the team achieved their goals in Abu Dhabi, adding that the result may have surprised his fellow pilots.

“We knew all along that it was going to be a hard race with the rental aircraft, so our objectives weren’t about where we were placed, they were about flying a new type of aircraft for us cleanly and efficiently,” Hall said.

“I think we have done that today, and we have got everything we can out of that aircraft that we can. So results being what they are, we had a win in our own team and achieved our goals.

“Here we have been running within two seconds of the field with an aircraft that had no modifications at all done to it.  So I think we have a few people looking at us a little scared.”

Ironically today’s result was almost on par with Hall’s finish at the same event in 2016, when a pylon hit relegated the Newcastle native from pre-race favouritism to ninth place. While there may be a better mood within the team 12 months on, Hall said that they will now knuckle down to begin preparations for a new aircraft that’s set to debut at second race of the season in San Diego.

“We’ll leave Abu Dhabi with only one less point than last year, and we finished second in the world in 2016,” he said.

“We will have our new plane, a Zivko Edge 540 V3 before the next race, and we’ll have some time getting used to it before then, which is better than we had for this race.

“We can’t put a prediction on a result for next race until we have actually flown the plane. But fingers crossed we keep building on our year from now.”

Yesterday’s fastest qualifier Martin Sonka produced a flawless performance to claim his first, and the Czech Republic’s first ever Red Bull Air Race victory. Spaniard Juan Velarde and Canada’s Pete McLeod rounded out the podium.

The 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championship will continue from April 15-16 in San Diego, USA.