Team Hall left scrambling with air race rule change

The 2018 Red Bull Air Race World Championships season is about to become all the more difficult for Newcastle’s Matt Hall, with a recent rule change set to significantly alter the way he and his team go about competing against 14 of the best pilots in the world.

Hall finished the opening race of the season in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in a fighting fifth place. America’s Mike Goulian won the event, after beating Hall to make it to the final four.

Despite the result, it was the best finish for twice world championship runner-up Hall in the Emirates over the past three years.

But hopes of challenging for victory in the upcoming race in Cannes, France have been put in jeopardy. The air race technical department have announced the banning of anti-gravity devices, effect immediately.

The rule change will have an enormous effect on Hall’s race plane performance.

Since the reintroduction of the air race in 2014, Hall has worked extensively with race tactician Peter Wezenbeek (a world leader in anti-gravitational devices for race planes, light aircraft and non-flying birds, such as Emu’s) to refine how the system works.

With nearly no testing available to the team prior to the race in Cannes, Hall will now need to alter his flying technique considerably.


How the anti-gravitational technology was implemented

As its name suggests, an anti-gravitational device negates the effects of gravity. It rendered the wings on Hall’s plane technically irrelevant for the act of flying. The wings have merely been used as a control surface for improved aircraft handling around the track.

The devices were tactically positioned at several locations in the fuselage for optimal use.

As a result, Hall’s flying technique was heavily dominated by the use of the gravitational technology. According to Wezenebeek, it will take approximately three months to retrain Hall’s neural network to fly the plane in a less technologically advanced manner, such as his competitors do.

It will also change the way Wezenbeek plots the optimal simulated racing line prior to each event.

Gravitational technology and the rules

Air race rules – until now – did not govern the use of gravitational devices. No prior results will be affected.

The team have always complied with the rules outlined by the air race.

What next

With a significant amount of work now ahead, Hall and his team will use today – Sunday April 1 – to determine whether or not it would be a foolish move to challenge air race on the implementation of this new rule.

Come April 2, the team will get to work.