Last chance for Hall to be champion
Matt Hall is the most successful pilot in Red Bull Air Race history to have never won the world championship, and now the former RAAF fighter pilot has a chance to rectify that stat when he races for a maiden title in the final air race before the series winds up in Chiba, Japan this weekend.
On three occasions, the Newcastle local has finished second in the race for the top step. In 2015 it was 19-time race winner and three-time world champion Paul Bonhomme who beat Hall by five points. Germany’s Matthias Dolderer was ahead of the Aussie in 2016, and last year Czech pilot Martin Šonka beat Hall to win the final race of the season by three-tenths of a second, just enough to clinch the title.
Now, for the fourth time in an eight-season long race career, Hall has yet another chance to add a championship to his 28 career podiums, which includes seven race wins. But to do so he will need to overcome the four-point gap to current series leader Šonka, while defending a six-point margin back to 2017 champion – and hometown hero at this race – Yoshihide Muroya of Japan.
Despite the inherent pressure of the task ahead of him, Hall comes into this race after a winning the Hungary event in July and ever since has remained relaxed about his approach to this year’s decider. His positive attitude is something that he said is attributed to the lessons he’s learned in previous years when racing for the top gong.
“This will be the fourth time I’ve been racing to be world champion and it feels a little more relaxed this time around to tell you the truth,” Hall said.
“I’m learning to deal with those emotions of fighting for a world championship, where you can’t control or worry about the what ifs. You can only focus on yourself and do the best that you can. I’m in a good position, I’m four points off the lead, there are 28 points up for grabs this weekend and having won the last race, all we can do is what we do best, and we know we can do it.”
When asked if he has dared to entertain aspirations of becoming the first Australian to win the air race world championship, Hall simply reiterated how intense his desire is to lift the main trophy on Sunday afternoon.
“I haven’t thought too much about being the first and the only ever Australian Red Bull Air Race world champion, I just want to be world champion because I have been so close so many times,” a resolute Hall confirmed.
“I am obviously Australian, and I have always worn an Australian flag on my shoulder, since I was 18-years-old with the air force. It’s nice to represent Australia, but now I simply want to go out there and be world champion.”
Action at the final Red Bull Air Race World Championship event begins on Saturday with qualifying at 3pm local time/4pm AEST. If Hall wants to put himself in the best possible position to claim the title, he will need to win qualifying and collect the three bonus points that go with that result.
Come Sunday, it will be all to play for between Hall, Šonka and Muroya. The final race will begin with the head-to-head knockout stage Round of 14 at 2pm local time/3pm AEST. Should Hall win his heat, he will then progress to the Round of 8 at 4pm local/5pm AEST and then aim to go on to the Final 4.