A three-way tussle for the 2018 Red Bull Air Race World Championship is set to roar back into action this weekend in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, and Australia’s Matt Hall is in the thick of the battle along with American veteran Mike Goulian and the relentless Martin Šonka of the Czech Republic.
With everything to play for, this weekend’s sixth round of the eight-stop world championship could prove to be pivotal in determining who might stand atop the ladder come season’s end. Just three weeks ago Hall’s title aspirations were dented in Kazan, Russia, as he was knocked out of the fifth race of year in the second of three stages, due to an unfortunate pylon hit.
His bad luck offered Šonka and Goulian a winning hand, as they went on to finish first and second in that race. As a result, Hall fell from first to third in the pecking order to be tied on 49 points with Šonka, while Goulian moved six points clear atop the standings.
Although the result in Russia was a setback for Hall, the Aussie has arrived in Austria unfazed by his championship position and is eager to turn the tables on his two closest rivals.
“Obviously we would have liked a better result in Kazan, but sometimes things don’t go your way,” Hall conceded.
“But we haven’t thrown our hands in the air and said that it’s all over. If the tables could be turned in that one race in Russia, where we went from leading to sitting third, then that means in one race we could go back to leading again.
“With three races to go this season, the Kazan result is not a problem at all. It would be nice to lead all the way to the end of the year, but in a competitive environment that is a luxury.”
This weekend’s race also marks something of a homecoming for the Red Bull Air Race, which was inaugurated in Austria 15-years ago in Zeltweg, 145km south west from this weekend’s race location.
VIDEO – The Red Bull Air Race returns to Austria.
Austria is also the place where Hall claimed his maiden career victory in 2015, when he beat home the world’s best-ever air race pilot, 19-time race winner Paul Bonhomme of the UK. While Austria might hold fond memories for Australia’s fastest pilot, Hall brushed off any suggestion that past results made it a personally favourable location.
“I am comfortable in Austria, but I’m not superstitious. So, having won here before has no bearing on my mindset,” Hall affirmed.
“This weekend will also be the first race of the season where we have a standing start, and don’t enter the track at speed. The last time we had a race with a standing start [Indianapolis, USA, 2017] we won qualifying. We know our plane is good in this race format and it has improved since Indy last year.
“Overall we’re happy and I feel we have the team, the plane and everything else lined up well too.”
Race six of the 2018 Red Bull Air Race World Championship will see pilots undertake free practice sessions one and two on Friday September 14. Practice three and qualifying will take centre stage on Saturday September 15.
The weekend’s main race showpiece will commence on Sunday September 16.
Qualifying begins at 4pm local time/12am AEST on Sunday September 16, while the race commences at 2pm local time/10pm AEST on Sunday.
Story supplied by Matt Hall Racing.