First time world championship leader Hall happy to be hunted in Budapest
For the first time in his 44-race career, Australian pilot Matt Hall is leading the Red Bull Air Race World Championship following back-to-back victories in France and Japan.
This weekend he comes into the fourth race of the year unperturbed by being chased, rather than chasing.
The world championship lands in its spiritual home of Budapest, Hungary this week with 14 of the fastest pilots on the planet ready to duke it out for victory. It’s expected that more than 100,000 spectators will pack the banks of the Danube River across Saturday and Sunday to absorb the spectacle.
Among the line-up of daring aviators is defending Budapest victor Kirby Chambliss of the USA and reigning world champion Yoshihide Muroya of Japan. But the closest rival for Hall this weekend will be American Mike Goulian, who sits second in the standings and has been in impeccable form to reach the podium in each of the first three races this season.
Even with an angry pack of competitors breathing down his neck, Newcastle’s Hall said that he isn’t worried about past results, or the pilots lurking in his rear-view mirrors.
“Being the hunted and not the hunter doesn’t worry me at all, I don’t really worry about the rest of the pilots in the series. I just worry about our own performance,” Hall said.
“We don’t set out measured results as expectations. The expectation is that we operate error free as a team and do so enthusiastically. Our team is definitely enthusiastic and so far, this year we have been error free and I don’t see a reason that will change.
“The team is very focused, very organised and doing their job. I am confident we will achieve our aims.”
With two wins on the trot, Hall knows that winning another will be his toughest task yet. The last pilot to do so was the late Hannes Arch of Austria, who strung a trio of victories together in Australia, Brazil and Canada during the 2010 season.
“It would be nice to win three in a row, it would be nice to win seven in a row,” Hall exclaimed.
“But you know, I’m not thinking about who’s done what and what records are out there. If you’re thinking about that then you’re concentrating on the wrong thing. All I am thinking about is the start gate, and that start gate on Sunday afternoon is the first target.
“It’s a high-speed track this weekend, it will be about who can do the best vertical turns without exceeding the G-force limit. There’s a really good low flat turn in there too. The good news about that turn is that it is similar to one we had in Japan, where we were dominating that turn, that’s where we owned the course.
“The bad news is that everyone watched that race and saw how I did it, and now they will do that too.”
This weekend’s Red Bull Air Race in Budapest begins with qualifying on Saturday June 23, with the race taking place on Sunday June 24.
Australian fans can follow Saturday’s action with the event live stream, which will commence online at www.redbullairrace.com/live and www.facebook.com/redbullairrace at 4pm local time, 12am AEST (Sunday June 24).
Race day can be watched live on Fox Sports Channel 507, with the race opening Round of 14 commencing at 1pm local time, 9pm AEST. The second stage Round of 8 and Final 4 shootout for victory will begin from 3pm local time, 11pm AEST. Race day will also be available on www.redbullairrace.com/live