Wide wings cost Hall a shot at the Final Four at air race Russia
A sixth-place finish is all Australian pilot Matt Hall could muster in the inaugural Red Bull Air Race World Championship event in Russia, with a pylon hit ending his day early in the Round of 8 – the second of three stages that make up a race.
From the outset of the day poor weather threatened to cancel proceedings, however fortune fell in the pilots’ favour and the precipitation held off. What ensued was a penalty laden Round of 14 that saw championship heavyweights Martin Šonka (CZE) and Yoshi Muroya (JPN) eliminated, the latter by Hall.
While Hall survived his own pylon hit in the opening round and was still fast enough to defeat Muroya, his luck ran out just over two hours later as he collected another pylon and was knocked out by Canada’s Pete McLeod. Meanwhile American Kirby Chambliss proved that when it rains it pours, as he powered to his second successive victory of the season.
Following a week where he felt in sync with his aircraft – and even claimed the early lap record – Hall rued missed opportunities come race day, saying that he fought to feel at ease with his race plane.
“I hit two pylons. I wasn’t happy with my flying today. I felt I was struggling with the aircraft a little bit,” Hall said.
“We still have a lot to do to get the handling set up. We don’t get enough flying at low level to know how the plane is performing. I’m looking forward to getting some time just to do some training so that I’m not fighting the plane in the track.”
Although Hall felt that his day was punctuated with difficulty chasing the speed in his aircraft, he said the track was a tough one that allowed no margin for error.
“The track is a design that is set up to cause pylon hits. A good track design is one that means you can pick a racing line and have a nice fast race, but if your offline still make it through the pylons,” he said.
“With this one if you’re offline and or the wind is coming from a certain direction you can’t actually get through without hitting a pylon. That said, we were up for the challenge but couldn’t get it finished off today.”
Today’s result sees Chambliss leapfrog Muroya and Šonka into the lead of the championship, McLeod sits fourth thanks to a second-place finish in Kazan. Rounding out the podium in Russia was the USA’s Mike Goulian, who claimed his first step on the dais for the season.
Not all was lost for Hall, as the Aussie moves up to ninth in the standings, his first time inside the top ten since the opening round of the season in Abu Dhabi, UAE, in February. Irrespective of the struggles so far in 2017, Hall is adamant that the development of his new aircraft with a predominantly new team will pay dividends before the end of the season.
“Keep your eyes on us, we will get there in the end and we will get on the podium, we just need time to gel as a complete unit,” Hall encouraged.
The next round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship will be held in Porto, Portugal from September 2-3. It is the location of Hall’s maiden podium in 2009, his rookie year in the world championship.