RBAR BUDAPEST: MIDPOINT OF SEASON IS MAKE-OR-BREAK FOR HALL, ARCH
The Red Bull Air Race will reach a halfway mark at Budapest, Hungary on July 16-17, and for pilots Hannes Arch of Austria and Matt Hall of Australia, the time to act is now.
BUDAPEST (HUNGARY) – The ninth stop in Budapest. The 70th Red Bull Air Race ever. This weekend’s action in the Hungarian capital marks numerous milestones. As the fourth stop in an eight-race season, the contest is also a critical midpoint, and certainly no one is more aware of the stakes than the two teams that were pegged as favourites in the pre-season – Matt Hall Racing and Hannes Arch Racing 22.
With the retirement of 2015 World Champion Paul Bonhomme, the pilots who stood with him on the second and third steps of the overall podium, Matt Hall of Australia and Hannes Arch of Austria, were generally acknowledged to be the top picks this year. Last season, by the time they flew into Budapest Hall and Arch had already breached those number 2 and 3 positions (although it was far from a coast to the finale). But after three races this time around, it’s Germany’s Matthias Dolderer at the head of the standings with 30 points, while Arch is in fifth (17 pts) and Hall is in eighth (12 pts).
Those results are somewhat deceiving: both pilots have been flying well this season, and Arch was on the podium in second place in Spielberg. But 2016 has been a free-for-all so far, opening with an upset and subsequently seeing two pilots (Dolderer and Japan’s Yoshihide Muroya) take career-first wins. Fleeting mistakes like inching across the Safety Line or going over the G limit have cost Arch and Hall dearly, and the Australian had back pain issues besides. So the race on 16-17 July will be a good time to make a move, and for both teams, there could hardly be a better location than Budapest to make it. Last year, Hall dazzled the Hungarian capital – and his opponents – by dominating three training sessions and earning his first Qualifying win. Then on Race Day he was the only pilot to go sub–one minute in the Round of 14. Although Hall got tripped up by a tiny 0.183-second defeat in a Round of 8 head-to-head, he still finished in the top five. While conditions now are different than in 2015, with a newly configured racetrack and a forecast for cooler temperatures, Hall does seem to have a handle on what it takes to fly fast over the Danube. The fact that it’s the season’s midpoint isn’t his focus.
“I try to do my best at every race, and if you’re happy you’ve done your best, you’ve got to walk away with a smile on your face and go, ‘I’m in the world’s best motorsport, and hey, the result didn’t match what I hoped I could do, but I did my best and let’s move on,’” Hall comments. “So it doesn’t matter if it’s the first race or the last race.”
As for Arch, he’s had more success in Budapest than any pilot in the current lineup. He captured the first race victory of his career in the city in 2008, another win in 2015, and in the one intervening Budapest race he also made the Final 4. Plus it’s worth noting that when Arch won Budapest in 2008, he went on to claim the world championship.
“I like if there is additional stress like flying under the bridge, the feel that it is an arena with lots of obstacles,” Arch says about the appeal of the stop. Referring to Hungary’s own aviation hero, the recently retired Red Bull Air Race pioneer Peter Besenyei, he adds, “Also it is kind of the birthplace of the Red Bull Air Race in respect to Peter Besenyei, and last but not least: there are lots of fans from Austria, and also in Hungary and Slovakia I have lots of fans.”
No matter where they come from or whom they support, with the determination of pilots like Hall and Arch, the Red Bull Air Race in Budapest this weekend will give fans dramatic action to cheer about.
Tickets for the five remaining stops of the 2016 Red Bull Air Race World Championship – including Budapest – are on sale now. For more information on tickets and all the latest, visit www.redbullairrace.com
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