Fifth place a silver lining for Hall in Red Bull Air Race opener

Australia’s Matt Hall has finished a credible fifth in the season opening event of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi, UAE, his best finish in the region since a second place in 2015.

Today’s race was won by America’s Mike Goulian, who climbed to the top step of the podium for just the second time in his 10-year career in the air race. Rounding out the top three was 2017 champion Yoshi Muroya of Japan in second, Czech pilot Martin Šonka was third.

While the result didn’t go the way Hall expected, he congratulated winner Goulian, who was the pilot that knocked him out in the second-stage Round of 8, en route to victory, and said the result was a positive start to the season.

“I think the track slowed down, at least it felt like that to me, but I was pushing hard. Mike has been faster than me all week, so congratulations to him and his team for winning today,” Hall said.

“Today I did push it, and my final lap (54.596) felt faster than my time in the first round (53.948).

“Regardless, this has been the best start to a season we have had for a couple of years, two seasons ago I won qualifying then was knocked out with a pylon hit. Last year we rented a plane and finished tenth.

“Being in the middle of the pack this time around is a lot better than that, there are still another seven rounds to go. Moreover some of the really fast guys in this series finished behind us today, so I feel like this title race will be wide open.

“I still believe we have the team to be in the hunt.”

The day wasn’t without shocks and drama, the first coming in the opening stage when Hall beat qualifying winner Matthias Dolderer in the first knock out stage.

Despite the German flying the fastest time of the session, which looked set to eliminate Hall, Dolderer was found to have exceeded the G-force limit. Incredibly, it was the sixth time in nine sessions he had done so.

Elsewhere rookie Masterclass pilot Ben Murphy of Great Britain beat Spaniard Juan Velarde to eventually finish a highly credible sixth in his maiden event. The day’s other major casualty was Canada’s Pete McLeod, who finished 14th after also exceeding the G-limit – that result a far cry from his third placing in the 2017 championship standings.

The Red Bull Air Race World Championship series continues in Cannes, France from April 21-22.

Final results and current standings, Red Bull Air Race Abu Dhabi

  1. Michael Goulian (USA)
  2. Yoshi Muroya (JPN)
  3. Martin Šonka (CZE)
  4. Kirby Chambliss (USA)
  5. Matt Hall (AUS)
  6. Ben Murphy (GBR)
  7. Francois Le Vot (FRA)
  8. Mika Brageot (FRA)
  9. Petr Kopfstein (CZE)
  10. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA)
  11. Juan Velarde (ESP)
  12. Cristian Bolton (CHI)
  13. Matthias Dolderer (GER)
  14. Pete McLeod (CAN)

(COVER PIC: Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Content Pool)