Australian pilot Hall relishing underdog status in Red Bull Air Race decider

For the third time in his career as a Red Bull Air Race pilot, Australia’s Matt Hall will have a strong chance of claiming a maiden world championship title this weekend, when the series concludes with the eighth and final race in Fort Worth, Texas.

In 2008, Hall left a decorated career as a fighter pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force to pursue a career as a race pilot. Since 2009 he has finished in the top three in the world on three occasions, two of those being years he battled for the title. This year he has been among the leading trio yet again and a step on the world championship podium is guaranteed. Which position that is, won’t be known until November 18 – race day.

Standing in the way of the Aussie ace claiming overall victory is championship leader Michael Goulian of the USA and Czech aviation superstar Martin Šonka. Goulian holds a strong seven-point lead over Hall, while Šonka is just two points clear of the Aussie. The points differential means that Hall must finish on the podium in this Sunday’s finale, with the hope that the results of his contemporaries fall his way, if he is to claim the title.

While top spot on the dais for Hall will rely on lady luck being on his side, the Novocastrian remained calm and confident when discussing his chances of a come from behind championship win.

“As far as the championship is concerned, we have nothing to lose. We come into this race in third place overall and at worst, will leave in that same position,” Hall said.

“But a lot can change quickly in this game, and seven points can definitely be pegged back. Just last round we saw Mike (Goulian) come from nine points behind the leader to jump into first. I am good enough to become world champion and our team has worked hard enough to be in a position to challenge for the title.

“To be in the best place to win it all this weekend, realistically we need to win the race. So, that is what we’re here to do, that is our focus. I will go home content if we win the race, knowing that we did everything we possibly could to finish atop the standings.”

Confidence will be key this weekend, as the three pilots from three different continents vie for what will be a maiden championship victory, no matter who wins. For the current leader Goulian, the immense weight of a nation rests on his shoulders as he aims to become the first pilot since the late Mike Mangold in 2005, to claim the championship on home soil.

Despite the pressure, Goulian will fly into the track at Texas Motor Speedway brimming with confidence, after victory at last month’s penultimate race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway jettisoned him into the series lead. That win underscored the turn of form that has seen the Massachusetts resident go from championship also-ran in previous years to title heavyweight this season.

Meanwhile both Hall and Šonka experienced forgettable events in Indianapolis. The Aussie finished sixth after collecting a pylon with his right wing, while his Czech counterpart was 10thand off the pace. The mistake was Hall’s second blunder of note in 2018, having also collected a pylon in the fifth race of the series in Kazan, Russia. Despite questions about competition pressure being raised, Hall said that previous mistakes wouldn’t shake his resolve to win this Sunday.

“There’s no doubt that my mistake in Indianapolis meant that we missed a great opportunity to stay within closer reach of the championship. But as a team, we undertook a thorough post-race debrief and identified where we can improve,” Hall said.

“Coming into this race I’m relaxed, we have done some great work with our plane and I am confident we have left no stone unturned.

“There have been some questions asked about whether or not we will create a strategy for this race based on how competitive Mike and Martin are, but that won’t be the case. The two races where I have made mistakes were ones that I was too focused on my competitors and not on myself.

“When I only compete with myself, I know I am fast, and I know I will win races. That was the case in both France and Japan this season and I am aiming to replicate those winning results this weekend.”

The all or nothing Red Bull Air Race Championship showdown takes place at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas this weekend. Qualifying will be held on Saturday November 17, with the race to rumble into action on Sunday November 18.

Australian fans can watch qualifying LIVE on www.redbullairrace.com/LIVEon Sunday November 18 at 8am AEDT. The race can be watched at the same location in Australia from 6am AEDT on Monday November 19.

Current world championship standings

  1. Michael Goulian (USA) 70
  2. Martin Šonka (CZE) 65
  3. Matt Hall (AUS) 63
  4. Mika Brageot (FRA) 36
  5. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 34
  6. Pete McLeod (CAN) 27
  7. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 25
  8. Ben Murphy (GBR) 22
  9. François Le Vot (FRA) 21
  10. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 20
  11. Juan Velarde (ESP) 20
  12. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 17
  13. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 16
  14. Christian Bolton (CHI) 12

PIC: Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Content Pool