Matt Hall has stolen the show – and the championship lead – at the third stop of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Chiba, Japan, beating home America’s Michael Goulian and Czech pilot Martin Šonka in the process.
The Aussie had his back against the wall at the beginning of the day, with his opponent in the first knockout stage being local hero and two-time defending Japanese race winner Yoshihide Muroya. However, a blistering time of 55.529 had Hall more than half a second ahead of the field, vaulting him into favouritism for the remainder of the race.
Meanwhile, reigning world champion Muroya exceeded the maximum G-force limit on his run and was subsequently disqualified from the opening round.
Today’s victory makes it two on the trot for Hall, who won the inaugural French race in Cannes last month. Now Hall is well and truly on track to hunt down a maiden world title in 2018 and said that the difficulty of today’s triumph made it just that bit sweeter than France.
“It feels good to win today, it feels a little bit better than the last race in Cannes. That race was fantastic because we won for the first time with this plane – it was a breakthrough. But this one was just really hard fought,” Hall said.
“We had a poor qualifying yesterday and went to bed knowing that our first task today was to race Yoshi, who’s the reigning world champion and the guy who has won this race the last two times in a row. He was also the crowd favourite.
“That made it a tough morning for us, but I am proud of how the team pulled it all together. There wasn’t a single error from anybody in the team. No matter what people see out there, this is a team sport, and everyone nailed it.”
Following his round of 14 win, Hall then fended off a challenge from Spaniard Juan Velarde in the second knockout stage, before progressing to the final four and a shootout for the top spot.
When it came to the final four, Goulian was the first contender out and he put down a clean and consistent run. Šonka followed, but a two-second penalty for flying through a gate at an incorrect level dashed his hopes of victory. It was a similar story for Canadian Pete McLeod, who incurred the same penalty and finished fourth.
That left Hall as the only genuine chance to beat Goulian, and the Aussie delivered when it mattered most.
With a second victory under his belt, Hall moves into equal first on the world championship leader board with Goulian (36 points apiece). Due to Hall’s two victories compared the American’s one, it is the Aussie who now tops the standings.
The Red Bull Air Race World Championship will next stop in Budapest, Hungary on the weekend of June 23-24.
Story supplied by Matt Hall Racing