Australia’s Matt Hall isn’t the sort of man to mince his words. When he tells you that a bad result at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the USA this weekend could end his hopes of becoming a Red Bull Air Race world champion for the first time, you know that he isn’t playing a game of smoke and mirrors.
The Newcastle local is nearing the end of his seventh season as a Red Bull Air Race World Championship pilot, and for the third time in his career he has a strong chance of claiming the title. Currently second in the standings ahead of the penultimate race of 2018 this Sunday, Hall trails Czech pilot Martin Šonka by six points and is three points clear of third-placed American Michael Goulian.
All three are gunning for a maiden title. Both Hall (2015 and 2016) and Šonka (2017) know the pain of finishing runner-up, while Goulian is having a breakout year that sees his results in the first six races dwarf his efforts over the past decade.
This weekend’s event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway could see Šonka claim the title with a race to spare if he wins, and Hall finishes fifth or lower and Goulian is third or lower. Despite trailing Czech ace – who has won three races on the hop – in the standings, Hall affirmed that his attitude to this weekend’s race won’t be altered due to the impending showdown.
“My mental approach is unchanged for this race from what it has been at any other race, even though we are at crunch time” Hall affirmed.
“It just means that it is more critical than ever that I fly error-free. You always want to achieve the best result possible, but sometimes if you have a poor result in the mid-season you can shrug your shoulders because there is time to catch up.
“We can’t do that this race, a bad result in Indy could be championship ending. But that does not change our approach.”
Adding to the spectacle of air racing at the track known as ‘the racing capital of the world’, will be the ruling that pilots must perform a standing start, which will see them take off and accelerate into the track. It’s the second race this year which has used such a starting method, which differs from the first five races where pilots entered the track at speed. It means those who can build momentum fastest will have an immediate advantage.
Following on from his third-place finish in Wiener Neustadt, Austria last month where standing starts were also mandated, Hall said that after being the fastest starter in two of three stages of that race, a top result on the tight Indianapolis track would be his goal.
“Last race it was really a toss of the coin for who came first, second and third between the top three guys. There was 0.083 of a second separating us, so we don’t need to change too much,” Hall said.
“A big positive that we took away from that race was that more often than not we had the fastest start speed, which is critical for these standing starts. We need to continue that.
“I am feeling confident in my team, they know what they are doing, and the plane is performing really well. Last year we won qualifying here in a race plane that wasn’t as modified as it is now, with a team that wasn’t as polished as we are now.
“I am flying well, we have a few minor tweaks to improve the plane again this race, and I think we can go faster than last year.”
This weekend’s Red Bull Air Race is the seventh of eight 2018. It will begin with qualifying at 4pm local time on Saturday October 6, or 7am AEST on Sunday October 7 for those in Australia. Racing will commence on Sunday October 7 at 1pm local time/4am AEST on Monday October 8.
Qualifying and the race will be shown LIVE online at www.redbullairrace.com/live. The race will also be broadcast LIVE around Australia on Fox Sports channel 503.
Story supplied by Matt Hall Racing