Hall third as title rival wins gusty Red Bull Air Race Indianapolis qualifying

Australia’s Matt Hall has recorded the third fastest time during qualifying for the seventh race of the 2018 Red Bull Air Race World Championship, which was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the USA this afternoon.

Fastest qualifier today was Czech pilot Martin Šonka, who is also the championship leader. Spaniard Juan Velarde slotted into the second position with an impressive run through the track early on in the session, as he made the most of a small window that presented ideal flying conditions.

Meanwhile Hall, who sits second in the standings and six points adrift of Šonka, described gustier conditions in the track during his run. As a result, the hard-charging Aussie was forced to fly more conservatively than he had earlier in the day, when he recorded one of the most competitive times of the week during free practice session three.

“It was pretty rough in the track and the pylons were moving a huge amount, I must admit that I didn’t push as hard as practice three,” Hall said.

“In practice three the plane was on rails and the pylons were stable, which meant I could really push up nice and close to them.

“During qualifying the pylons were moving up to three feet, so I had to give myself a bit more room against them as I wasn’t sure if they would move – or if the plane would move with a gust of wind.”

Today’s result means that Hall will now contest tomorrow’s race-opening Round of 14, which is a head-to-head knockout format, against Frenchman François Le Vot for the fourth time this season. While Hall has won all three previous encounters, he was reticent to declare tomorrow’s result a foregone conclusion against his French contemporary.

“What I’ve learned from flying François is that he is fast, and he actually flew a track record against us in a Round of 14 earlier in the year,” Hall continued.

“I never take it for granted when I fly against François. That being said, he has seemed to struggle in this track for some reason. But also remember, that he will work really hard on improving tonight and he is a world aerobatic champion. He knows what he is doing.

“Every Round of 14 we know we have to do our best in order to place well for the second stage Round of 8.”

With Hall and Šonka both in the top three, eighth-place was all American Michael Goulian could muster up. The hometown hero sits third in the standings and the only pilot within range of challenging for the championship.

That result pitches Goulian into a battle with speedy Canadian Pete McLeod. For Šonka, tomorrow’s race will begin with a battle against two-time air race world champion Kirby Chambliss, also of the USA.

Tomorrow’s seventh race of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship will begin at 1pm local time, 4am AEDT on Monday October 8. Should Hall beat Le Vot, or finish as the fastest of the seven losers from the opening round, he will progress to the second-stage Round of 8.

The winners from that round, will then go into a four-way shootout for victory. For Hall, race day will be all about buying a ticket to the final stanza and then trying to close the gap to rival Šonka.

“We don’t need to worry too much about Martin until the Final 4 tomorrow. So, we will go with our normal game plan and try and win our rounds. We don’t have to change anything as third was pretty good today,” Hall surmised.

Action from Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be broadcast LIVE on Fox Sports Australia channel 503, as well as online at www.redbullairrace.com/live.

Qualifying results – Red Bull Air Race, Indianapolis 

  1. Martin Šonka (CZE) – 1:04.751
  2. Juan Velarde (ESP) – 1:05.226
  3. Matt Hall (AUS) 58 – 1:06.086
  4. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) – 1:06.149
  5. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) – 1:06.273
  6. Matthias Dolderer (GER) – 1:06.442
  7. Pete McLeod (CAN) – 1:06.463
  8. Michael Goulian (USA) – 1:06.505
  9. Christian Bolton (CHI) – 1:06.695
  10. Ben Murphy (GBR) – 1:06.848
  11. Mika Brageot (FRA) – 1:07.100
  12. François Le Vot (FRA) – 1:07.938
  13. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) – 1:08.657
  14. Kirby Chambliss (USA) – 1:09.163

Current world championship standings

  1. Martin Šonka (CZE) 64
  2. Matt Hall (AUS) 58
  3. Michael Goulian (USA) 55
  4. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 34
  5. Mika Brageot (FRA) 34
  6. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 22
  7. François Le Vot (FRA) 21
  8. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 17
  9. Juan Velarde (ESP) 16
  10. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 16
  11. Pete McLeod (CAN) 15
  12. Ben Murphy (GBR) 15
  13. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 11
  14. Christian Bolton (CHI) 6