RBAR BUDAPEST: WHITSUNDAY REFRESHER HAS HALL READY TO GO
The Red Bull Air Race returns to the skies in Budapest this week and Matt Hall believes a family holiday flying around the Whitsunday Islands will be the catalyst for a return to the form that saw the Australian pilot finish runner up in last year’s world championship.
Hall had a breakthrough season in 2015, winning two races and coming within a whisker of claiming a maiden world title, before finishing just shy of now retired air race great Paul Bonhomme in the overall standings.
The 2016 season has not been so kind to the highly decorated former RAAF fighter pilot with a back injury and an uncharacteristic error in the season opener contributing to his eighth place in the standings after three of eight races so far this year.
Fortunately for Hall, apart from runaway ratings leader Matthias Dolderer of Germany, the rest of the elite 14 pilot field remains fairly compact and a strong result flying above the Danube in Budapest this weekend could propel the Australian as high as second place at the season’s halfway point.
Hall said the break in tropical North Queensland was just the medicine required to kick start his title charge.
“I feel great coming into this race, the best I’ve felt all year,” Hall said.
“To get away from home and work, to do some flying that was as far removed from flying in a race track as possible and just enjoy time with the family has really put me in a good headspace.”
The 2015 Budapest round of the world’s fastest motorsport series was an interesting one for Hall, marking the only event of the season he did not earn a spot on the podium, but also one of the most dominant weeks in air race history.
The Lake Macquarie based pilot clocked the fastest time in every training and qualifying session before Czech Martin Sonka caused one of the biggest boilover’s of the season by eliminating Hall in the round of 8.
Hall ended up finishing fifth in that race before claiming two second places and two race wins in the final four rounds of the season and hopes coming back to the Hungarian capital will trigger a return to the pointy end of the competition.
“Budapest was great for us last season as far as showing us what we could do as a team when we get things right,” the 44-year-old said.
“I see no reason why I can’t return to that level of consistency and performance this week. I don’t know how the other guys will go, how they will fly, but if I can get back to that standard myself I will be very happy.
“Last year we looked at every individual flight on its own merits and each race as an individual race. We didn’t give too much thought to the overall championships and took it flight by flight and it’s a strategy the whole team is very mindful of with five races to go this season.
“We can only contribute to our own performance and result, not the result of the other teams, so we won’t be drawn into worrying about where we sit in the standings or what we have to do to move up the ladder.
“The plan is simple, we just need to do the best we can each and every time I strap into the race plane, looking no further than the next gate.”
The fourth round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship will be held over the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary this weekend, July 16-17.