The stage has been set for a thrilling opening to tomorrow’s third round of the Red Bull Air Race in Chiba, Japan, with Australia’s Matt Hall queued to go head-to-head with reigning world champion and local Japanese hero Yoshihide Muroya in the first knockout stage, the Round of 14.
In today’s qualifying session Hall finish a surprising 12th, a far cry from the first and second the Aussie occupied in the final two practice sessions of the weekend. In his two qualifying attempts, Hall was slower than expected in the first, while a pylon hit in the second quelled any hopes of finishing higher up the pecking order.
Now a dice with the world champion and two-time defending winner of the Japanese air race awaits. Although most pilots would quiver in their boots at the prospect, Hall remains confident that he has the pace to take the challenge to Muroya.
“Today’s qualifying session wasn’t as clean as I wanted, but that being said our raw time in our second attempt was really good,” Hall explained.
“We need to do a little research tonight and find out what happened in that first run, but even so I am happy with our second and we will just work out why I hit the pylon. That being said, the hit didn’t affect our raw time [without the three second penalty] so we’re still producing a time that his about a second ahead of Yoshi there.
“I hope that means he is a little more nervous about tomorrow than I am. My confidence is still high, maybe it dipped a little after the first qualifying run, but I am not concerned that I am turning into a pylon hitter after the second run. That was my second hit of the year and I am still running fast in the track.”
Coincidentally, the match up with Muroya marks the second straight year that Hall finds himself in a duel with Japan’s most loved aviator. In 2017 Muroya got the better of Hall, but the Aussie isn’t fazed by once again hoping to cause upset to a vocal and passionate Japanese crowd.
“I’ve knocked Matthias Dolderer out in Germany before, so now it is time to try and knock Yoshi out in Japan I guess,” Hall smiled.
Today’s qualifying session was won by championship leader Michael Goulian of America. It was his second straight qualifying win after he triumphed in Cannes, France last month. Amazingly, Goulian has not been outside of the top two in qualifying all season.
Kirby Chambliss made it a one-two for America today, while Muroya rounded out the top three.
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Tomorrow’s Japanese Red Bull Air Race begins with the head-to-head Round of 14. From there the seven winners, as well as the fastest loser, progress to the second-stage Round of 8. The four winning pilots from that round will then go into a four-way shootout or victory in the Final 4.
Australian fans can follow the action LIVE on Fox Sports channel 506, with coverage running from 3pm-4pm AEST for the first round. The second two rounds are LIVE from 5pm-6pm AEST.
The race can also be watched LIVE online at www.redbullairrace.com/live.
Hall is currently second in the standings, three points behind Goulian ahead of racing in the third round of the world championship.
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