Qualifying mistake sets up scintillating race day for Aussie pilot Hall

It seems amiss to bill tomorrow’s Red Bull Air Race main event as a tantalising affair for Australian pilot Matt Hall following a costly qualifying error, but with the first race day of 2018 looming under the desert sun of Abu Dhabi, that is exactly the case.

The former RAAF pilot, who hails from Newcastle, NSW, came into today’s season-opening air race qualifying session confident of a strong result. However an uncharacteristic mistake of exceeding the G-force limit ensured a DNF was placed next to his name.

As a result the two-times world championship runner up will face off against qualifying winner, 2016 champion and good mate Matthias Dolderer of Germany in the race opening Round of 14. It’s a match up reminiscent of their tussle for the world title two seasons ago, and expectations are sky high for a thrilling show.

While a non-result would sound alarm bells for most other pilots, Hall was only just on the foul side of the rules, and said that his confidence is still strong heading into race day.

“It (qualifying) wasn’t as good as we were hoping, I was feeling good entering the track,” Hall recounted.

“I got a pretty high G indication in my first big pull on the joystick and I logged that in my head, and as I came around the track I didn’t even think that it would be a problem coming into gate seven. I was just applying a tight line and I touched 12.0 G’s, and 12.0 is the limit. So it’s a DQ for that.

“That isn’t race day, it’s just qualifying so we need to race the winner of that session which is Matthias. He put a bloody fast time down, but he has also only posted about three results in training sessions because he has been breaking the G-limit.

“We’ll see what happens tomorrow, I am still confident of a strong result. It’s just a case of de-briefing myself so I don’t do it again.

“Fortunately I have a self-motivating team who knows that these mistakes are rare, so we’ll approach tomorrow refreshed.”

Indeed the pressure in tomorrow’s match up will be on Dolderer to not make yet another error come race day. The German has broken the G-limit five times out of eight sessions so far during the race week; such is the high-risk, high-reward nature of his line through the track.

America’s Mike Goulian posted the second fastest time of the qualifying session and will face off with Frenchman Nicolas Ivanoff. Reigning world champion Yoshi Muroya of Japan was third and now faces the tough task of overhauling Canadian speedster Pete McLeod.

TV coverage of tomorrow’s race begins on www.redbullairrace.com/LIVE at 7:45pm AEDT, with the Challenger series racing first. Hall and his cohorts of the Masterclass race from 9pm AEDT, which will be broadcast, LIVE by Fox Sports.

(Pic: Andreas Langreiter / Red Bull Content Pool)