Hall among the frontrunners in Red Bull Air Race Porto qualifying!

Australia’s Matt Hall has finished sixth in an ultra-competitive qualifying session in Porto, Portugal today for the sixth round of the 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championship.

In front of crowds packing the city limits, the session was won by Pete McLeod, who looked invincible as he scorched to his fourth straight qualifying victory. The Canadian took top spot almost a second ahead of second placed pilot, and championship leader, Kirby Chambliss of the USA.

However, the gap between Chambliss in second and Hall in sixth was a mere two-tenths of a second, a clear indication that the fight for the podium in tomorrow’s main event will reward the pilots who can run right up on the limit, without overstepping it and incurring a penalty.

If Hall hopes to replicate his podium placing form from the last time the air race visited Porto in 2009, he will first need to beat reigning world champion Matthias Dolderer of Germany in the race opening Round of 14.

Despite the tough ask ahead of the head-to-head dual, Hall simply said that he’s enjoying his aircraft and hangar working environment.

“I cannot wait to race tomorrow. I am enjoying my new plane, I am enjoying working with my team and we have really gelled well together,” Hall beamed.

“Today I enjoyed both of my qualifying laps. We had been running really consistently in practice, and our objectives this weekend were to get the handling of our plane absolutely where we want it.

“We know that the plane is on song when I can fly it smoothly, consistently and error free. After two consistent and fast efforts, and a much faster second lap we know that we are there at the moment.”

While today’s result maximised the potential of the aircraft in its current set up, team tactician Peter Wezenbeek warned that this weekend won’t be a clear indicator of what Hall is capable of.

“This is the one track this season that will show our weaknesses more than any other. If anything, this one tells us that we need to develop the front-end aerodynamics of the plane, which is already in our plans for the coming months.”

Added Hall, “Our plane isn’t quite modified yet. It looks similar to the others, but the mods aren’t done to make it super-fast yet. The other pilots have had their planes for 7-8 years, so to be up there dicing with them is really cool.

“I am finally starting to feel at home in this new plane. Roll on race day, it is great to be a race pilot!”

Tomorrow’s main event will begin at 1pm local time, 10pm AEST, with the Round of 14.

Should Hall defeat Dolderer, or record the fastest time of those that lose their heat, he will proceed to the second stage Round of 8.

From there the fastest four pilots will advance to the Final 4, which is a direct shootout for a chance at the top step of the podium.

You can watch the race LIVE at this link: www.redbullairrace.com/live

Image courtesy Mihai Stetcu Photography.