Hall third in Budapest, moves clear atop Red Bull Air Race World Championship

Australia’s Matt Hall is now the clear leader of the 2018 Red Bull Air Race World Championship after finishing third in the fourth round in Budapest, Hungary and importantly beating home main rival Michael Goulian of the USA.

Coming into today’s race Hall and Goulian were tied on 36 points from three races, with the Aussie holding down the top spot thanks to two wins compared to the American’s one. While all eyes were on who of the two combatants would lead outright following this race, it was Czech pilot Martin Šonka who stole the limelight to win in Budapest.

French pilot Mika Brageot scored his first ever podium result, a second place.

At the other end of the spectrum defending world champion Yoshihide Muroya had the wind taken out of his sails, as he scored a second consecutive DNF. That leaves the Japanese pilot 26 points in arrears of Hall, with a steep ascent ahead if he still holds aspirations of back-to-back series crowns.

For Hall, today’s story may not be about becoming just the third pilot in the history of the sport to string three successive wins together in a single season. Instead it is one of capitalising on strong pace to beat Goulian, who finished fourth following what commentators called a “schoolboy error”, as the Massachusetts resident hit a pylon and then accrued a total of seven seconds of penalties.

“Today was Goulian’s fourth time in a row in the Final 4, that’s good consistency,” Hall praised.

“I was trying not to let world championship tactics get in the way of my flying today, but I heard his [Goulian’s] time and his time only. In this track there is a high risk of DQ’ing due to exceeding the G-Force limit, so I decided to be a little more conservative to beat him and not really care too much about the other guys.

“That might turn out to be a mistake with Šonka later in the year, but at least it pushes Mikey down below me by a couple of points.”

In a fast drag-strip style track that rewards high risk, but punishes those who push the envelope too far, Hall said that he trod a fine line throughout the day to put himself in the final stage shootout for the podium.

“I went out in the first stage, the Round of 14, and had to push very hard and I set myself a limit of 11.5G’s and hit 11.7Gs. So that was really close to 12Gs and a DQ there,” Hall explained.

“In the second round against Nicolas (Nicolas Ivanoff of France) I set myself a 10.5G limit but got to 11.2G. So, it was very hard to control the G at these high speeds. Hence why I backed right off in the last flight and didn’t try to win the race, for fear of over-G.”

Although Hall eventually made the call to back it off, that tactic was not the plan at the outset of the Final 4, with the Novocastrian knowing the importance of beating home Goulian and leading the title race at the mid-season break.

“Pete (race tactician Peter Wezenbeek) and I talked about whether I would go for the win or not, and the decision was to go for the win because Mike was into the Final 4. We had to beat him,” he emphasised.

“At that point, before I took off for the last flight, it was worth risking a penalty. But as I said, when I heard his time I knew it then became important to simply finish ahead of him.”

The 2018 Red Bull Air Race World Championship now goes on an eight-week break before resuming on Kazan, Russia in the penultimate week of August. Hall will arrive back in Australia on Tuesday evening.

Red Bull Air Race Budapest top five:

  1. Martin Šonka (CZE)
  2. Mika Brageot (FRA)
  3. Matt Hall (AUS)
  4. Michael Goulian (USA)
  5. François Le Vot (FRA)

Current world championship standings

  1. Matt Hall (AUS) 45
  2. Michael Goulian (USA) 43
  3. Martin Šonka (CZE) 34
  4. Mika Brageot (FRA) 27
  5. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 19
  6. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 15
  7. François Le Vot (FRA) 15
  8. Pete McLeod (CAN) 11
  9. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 10
  10. Juan Velarde (ESP) 9
  11. Ben Murphy (GBR) 9
  12. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 8
  13. Christian Bolton (CHI) 6
  14. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 5