Fighting fifth for Hall in qualifying for Red Bull Air Race Japan
Matt Hall has claimed fifth place in qualifying for the third Red Bull Air Race World Championship event of 2017 in Chiba, Japan, overcoming patchy practice performances to finish with a strong result ahead of tomorrow’s main event.
Australia’s only air race pilot came into the Japanese event eager to get his season back on track following ninth and tenth placing’s in the first two events of the season. Now becoming more familiar with a brand new aircraft, Hall today made the most of the raw speed in his chariot.
However the result didn’t come easy for the Hall and his team. He set the benchmark time in today’s opening practice session, although exceeded the 12 g-force limit, forcing a full inspection of the airframe. The second practice of the day resulted in yet another inspection for another over-g.
Overcoming the setbacks of practice, Hall planned to regain confidence in qualifying, and did just that. A smart time of 55.010 in his first lap was enough to eclipse predecessor Mikaël Brageot of France, and was eventually just four tenths of a second behind winner Pete McLeod of Canada.
“I needed to make sure I was solid with the g-forces during qualifying. We had two over-g’s in practice and that slowed our progress,” Hall said.
“I’ve been struggling with the plane today, so to come back and get that time, it helps me build confidence ahead of race day tomorrow.
“On my second qualifying lap today I tried a slightly different line, and just pushed it too far and clipped a pylon. Without that penalty I was on track for a 54.93 lap, which would have put me right up there with the top guys.”
With his focus now turning to a match up with French veteran Nicolas Ivanoff, Hall will be looking to find the form he had in Japan in 2015, when he finished second to the now retired Paul Bonhomme.
“Tomorrow we fly against Nicolas, who is just a little ahead of us in the series points at the moment. As always my plan will be to fly the plane as smoothly as possible in the track and avoid any penalties.
“We have had very limited time in our aircraft this week, so to be where we are is a good foundation for race day. But risk mitigation will be key tomorrow and it is all about buying a ticket through each round to the final four.”
Following McLeod in the results was reigning champion Matthias Dolderer of Germany in second, current championship leader Martin Šonka rounding out the top three. Meanwhile defending winner in Japan, and local hero Yoshi Muroya finished fourth and will come into race day under pressure as the crowd favourite.
The third event of the 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championship season kicks off on Sunday June 4 with the head-to-head Round of 14. The seven winners and the fastest loser continue into the Round of 8, before the Final Four showdown for victory.
The event will be streamed LIVE for Australian fans on www.redbullairrace.com/live from 2pm AEST.