Hall hangs it all out, while Japan’s Muroya wins Red Bull Air Race world title
A hard charging Matt Hall has finished the final Red Bull Air Race event of 2017 in eighth place, following a head-to-head battle with championship contender Martin Šonka at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indiana, USA.
Hall came into race day as the favourite, and looked to be living up to that expectation in the race opening Round of 14 as he recorded the fastest time. That set up a stoush with title hopeful Šonka in the round of eight, but the Czech pilot won that heat and advanced after Hall collected two penalties.
“I was flying after Martin, and I knew if he ran anything under 1min, 5sec I would need to really fly hard, so when I heard he was in the 4’s I went for it,” Hall said.
“Speed in this track is won or lost at gate two, so I got the plane at max angle and went for it – unfortunately I hit that pylon. At first, I wasn’t sure if I did or not, so I looked behind me and that distracted me and blew the rest of the lap with a second penalty.
“Irrespective what happened today, as a team we have had a good season. I spoke with the team at the start of the day and said that regardless of the result, we have achieved our goals for the year. We developed a plane and turned ourselves into a fast package worthy of fighting for victory.
“We proved that by winning two qualifying sessions late this season, topping practice sessions, winning round of 14’s and with our two podiums in Portugal and Germany. Now we have an off-season to work on our plane and find some more speed.”
Meanwhile the day continued with the last stage Final Four, and pitted against each other was Šonka – the championship leader before the final round of the day – and Muroya, the pursuer.
Muroya flew first and obliterated the track record to finish in a time of 1min, 3sec. Outgoing world champion Matthias Dolderer of Germany flew second, Spaniard Juan Velarde third and Šonka fourth, the former Czech military pilot needing only second to claim the title.
But just as unpredictable as the 2017 world championship has been, with 10 pilots having stood on the podium, Šonka’s time blew out, and he finished fourth. It handed Muroya the title, the first Japanese pilot to be crowned world champion.
With the season at an end, teams and fans alike will await the announcement of the official 2018 world championship calendar. For Matt Hall after finishing sixth in the points this season, next year can’t come soon enough as he aims to re-join the title fight.
“This season we were out of contention from the start with new aircraft, new team personnel and a lot of testing. Our goal has always been 2018, and I feel like I have the team to do it,” Hall said.
“We finished second overall in 2015 and 2016, and we’re ready to be back in the hunt.”