Aussie pilot Hall third in blistering French Red Bull Air Race qualifying session

Just one tenth of a second has separated the top three pilots in qualifying at the first ever French Red Bull Air Race World Championship event, with Australian pilot Matt Hall ending up third – even after he had looked to lay down a near untouchable lap time.

The session was won by series leader Michael Goulian of the USA, ahead of compatriot Kirby Chambliss. Those two pilots were separated by 0.116 of a second, with Hall a further five one thousandths in arrears of Chambliss.

Behind that trio was former world champion Matthias Dolderer of Germany, top ranked French pilot Mika Brageot and reigning world champion Yoshihide Muroya of Japan. Those three were all within six one hundredths of a second of each other. Today’s pace above the stunning Côte d’ Azur was incredibly quick.

Hall said that every ounce of time mattered today, especially with a track that continued to become favourable to fast times.

“I am satisfied with the run and today was a bit of a lottery today with the qualifying session,” Hall said.

“We were really quick in that session, but it just got faster and faster. That’s the way racing is, it is so very close, and you need to take every thousandth of a second.

“I think the track has been speeding up, and not to say that the other guys haven’t done a brilliant job, but there’s some fast times coming out here. There’s going to be some big match ups tomorrow.”

The early leader in qualifying was Dolderer, who had finished no better than seventh earlier in the weekend during the three practice sessions. He then came from nowhere to produce a time that many believed would be the fastest of the day.

Dolderer’s time stood as a further six pilots took to the track but was then beaten by Hall who put in a performance that was once again thought to be the pick of the bunch.

The Aussie sat at the top as Czech pilot Martin Šonka was disqualified for exceeding the G-Force limit, staying there until Chambliss shaved 0.005 of a second off his time.

Muroya was next but was only good enough for sixth in the end. Then came Goulian with the winning lap, proving that his first-place result in the opening race of the season in Abu Dhabi, UAE was a clear sign that he has pace to burn in season 2018.

With qualifying over, pilots now turn their attention to race day and the opening Round of 14 head-to-head knockout session, where the seven winners and fastest of the loser’s progress further into the race. Hall’s first encounter will be against Frenchman François Le Vot.

“Each time I race, I am racing against a friend of mine. But there are three French pilots out there and it would be nice to qualify for the Round of 8 tomorrow and push for our first podium of the year,” Hall said.

The second round of the 2018 Red Bull Air Race World Championships series will take off in anger in Cannes, on the French Riveria tomorrow, Sunday April 22.

The event will be LIVE on Fox Sports 505 and online at redbullairrace.com/live at 10pm AEST for the Round of 14. Coverage will resume at 12am AEST on Monday April 23 with the Round of 8, all the way through to the fight for the podium.

Hall currently sits fifth in the world championship standings.

Red Bull Air Race Cannes, Qualifying top 5: 

  1. Michael Goulian (USA): 57:073 seconds
  2. Kirby Chambliss (USA): 57.189
  3. Matt Hall (AUS): 57.194
  4. Matthias Dolderer (DEU): 57.396
  5. Mika Brageot (FRA): 57.454

(Featured Image: Mihai Stetcu/Red Bull Content Pool)