Lighter plane to power Hall into first ever French Red Bull Air Race

Australian Red Bull Air Race pilot Matt Hall has made wholesale changes to his race plane in the eight weeks since the season opening event of the 2018 world championship series, which was held in the United Arab Emirates and now he is ready for act two in Cannes on the French Riveria this weekend.

The season began in frenetic style for Hall, with a re-brand to his Zivko Edge 540 V3 racer – the world’s leading aerobatic race aircraft – playing more havoc with its handling ability than anticipated. A heavy paint job added a significant amount of weight, and in turn that threw the plane off balance.

Despite those challenges, the former RAAF Wing Commander from Newcastle, NSW managed to drag the plane to fifth place, a solid start to his season.

Now the series has moved onto the stunning Côte d’Azur, for the first ever French event in the history of the Red Bull Air Race. Brimming with confidence following weeks of hard work, Hall is confident that what was a tantrum-prone plane, will now be the precise weapon that can once again challenge for the podium.

“We had issues with the plane in the first race. It had a new paint scheme and as a result the tail was quite heavy, which made it sensitive to pitch and that led to some over-G’s [which results in a DNF],” Hall said.

“So, it’s been a busy time between races, even though two months have passed.

“We had it shipped on a truck up to the middle of Germany where our team there and teams from America worked on it. Then the Australian team went to Germany via the USA to put it all go back together so I could test fly it.

“We have reduced the weight out of the tail and hopefully at this stage, the plane looks to be handling better and over-G should not be a risk for us. We have also cleaned up the leading edges of the wings, so it hangs on a bit tighter through the corners. Fingers crossed we have made it slightly faster, but also more manoeuvrable.”

With initial thoughts that the plane is back to the amiable handling ability of its prime in 2017, where Hall took it to back-to-back qualifying wins and podiums, the focus now is all about the French track.

“This track is going to be reasonably fast, and there will be some interesting lines, with some Over-G potential. The big win and lose moves will be around who can negotiate the big vertical turns best,” Hall continued.

“However, there are some interesting single pylons out there that guys will have to get around efficiently.”

The second round of the 2018 Red Bull Air Race World Championship begins with qualifying in Saturday April 21 at 4pm local time (12am AEST Sunday April 22).

Sunday will see the main event take centre stage in front of a packed-out crowd lining the famous Promenade de la Croisette in Cannes. All will be eager to lap up the action as the world’s fastest and most skilful pilots duke it out for glory. Coverage of that event will begin from 2pm local time, 10pm AEST.

Australian fans can watch it LIVE here: www.redbullairrace.com/live