Hall qualifies fourth as title rival Goulian falters

Red Bull Air Race World Championship leader Matt Hall of Australia has taken a fine fourth place in qualifying for the fourth round of the 2018 series in Budapest, Hungary, while title rival Mike Goulian finished 13th following a DNF.

Coming into this week’s event Hall and his American rival were tied on 36 points apiece, however the Aussie leads courtesy of his two victories to Goulian’s one so far this year.

With both men 17-points clear of their next closest rivals Martin Šonka (Czech Republic) and reigning world champion Yoshihide Muroya (Japan), this weekend’s race could prove pivotal as both Hall and Goulian hunt a maiden world title.

With 15 points on the table for tomorrow’s race winner, it was Šonka who announced himself as the man to beat in Budapest by winning today’s qualifying with a blistering lap, while Muroya was hot on his heels in second place. Third was fellow Czech pilot Petr Kopfstein.

Today’s results determine who each pilot will face in tomorrow’s Round of 14, a head-to-head knockout round that will see the seven heat winners and fastest loser progress to the second stage Round of 8. The winners of those duels will then transfer to the Final Four shootout for the podium.

By locking away fourth place, Hall will race against French pilot François Le Vot for the second time this season in the Round of 14. Their first encounter came in Cannes, France in April – which also coincided with the Australian’s first of two victories in 2018.

With a solid result under his belt ahead of tomorrow’s race, Hall said he was pleased to put three up and down practice sessions behind him and get his weekend back on track with his qualifying effort.

“It’s been a turbulent two days of flying for us. Yesterday we had a communications failure in the plane and then on the second practice session we had a bird strike and put a little hole in the wing. So, we fixed that overnight and today’s first round we had another audio issue,” Hall said.

“We changed a few things to rectify those issues before qualifying to try and get it back to where it should have been. I was a little nervous before today’s session, because I took off not knowing if everything was the way it should be.

“But it turned out everything was working nicely.”

As the ship began righting itself for Hall, it was the opposite for sparring partner Goulian who exceeded the maximum G-force limit to take himself out of the running and finish second last. The American will battle against Muroya tomorrow afternoon.

While Goulian was left to lament a costly penalty, Hall said that flying error free had buoyed him ahead of the main event.

“I’ve flown penalty free this week, it’s something we always aim for,” Hall said.

“If I can be penalty free, even during training it means that I don’t wake up on race day thinking ‘I hope I don’t do that again’. I wake up on race day telling myself to do what I do and attack the track the way I want.

Meanwhile 2016 world champion Matthias Dolderer of Germany didn’t start the qualifying session and will not race this weekend due to illness.

Sunday’s Red Bull Air Race roars into life over the River Danube in Budapest at 1pm local time/9pm AEST with the Round of 14. Australian fans can watch it LIVE on Fox Sports Channel 501 or online at www.redbullairrace.com/live.

Red Bull Air Race Budapest qualifying top five: 

  1. Martin Šonka (CZE) – 57.600
  2. Yoshihide Muroya (JAP) – 57.632
  3. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) – 57.872
  4. Matt Hall (AUS) – 58.085
  5. Pete McLeod (CAN) – 58.122

Current world championship standings

1. Matt Hall (AUS) 36, 2. Michael Goulian (USA) 36, 3. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 19, 4. Martin Sonka (CZE) 19, 5. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 15,  6. Mika Brageot (FRA) 15, 7. Pete McLeod (CAN) 11, 8. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 9, 9. Francois Le Vot (FRA) 9, 10. Juan Velarde (ESP) 9, 11. Ben Murphy (GBR) 6, 12. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 6, 13. Christian Bolton (CHI) 1, 14. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 1