Less than eight one hundredths of a second has separated the top three finishers at the sixth round of the 2018 Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Wiener Neustadt, Austria, as Australia’s Matt Hall finished third in one of the closest ever races for victory.
With Hall occupying the third step of the podium, in second it was reigning world champion Yoshihide Muroya of Japan, who was just 0.05 seconds faster than Hall. Another 0.03 seconds quicker than Muroya was Czech pilot Martin Šonka, who assumed the championship lead with his third successive victory of the season.
Although reaching the podium for the fourth time in 2018 was a strong result for Hall, the Aussie described it as a bittersweet feeling as he remains six points off the championship lead, just as he was ahead of this weekend’s race.
“It’s good to be on the podium, but it was disappointing to get to the podium and not get to the first step, especially when it’s eight one hundredths of a second from first to third,” Hall said.
“That’s the way racing is, it is so tight and we’re still six points behind the leaders, we’ve just happened to have a new leader now.
“Wiener Neustadt has been a good race, we had a nice clean race and I am really happy with how it went. Effectively to only be losing by eight one hundredths, that’s a toss of the coin between the top three. So, we’re happy that we’re still in the running, we just need to make sure we can claw back six points on Martin.”
Today’s race also marked the end of the European races for the 2018 world championship, with the series now moving to back-to-back races in the USA to round out the season. With Šonka making it a trifecta of victories, he has established himself as the man to beat as the season races towards a crescendo in Indianapolis and Dallas respectively.
Whether the seemingly impenetrable Czech is beatable or not, was a question Hall had no hesitation in answering.
“Martin is definitely beatable, we have seen that previously he hasn’t qualified that well. But he is flying very cleanly and very consistently and his plane is obviously pretty fast,” Hall affirmed.
“But we set probably the fastest time of the day today in the Round of 8 and I did the same line [in the Final 4] that I did then, but my engine was stinking hot because I was only shut down for three or four minutes, and I went back out again. so, we lost a bit of power out there.
“We’re happy we’re doing the right thing to win races, and I think I can beat Martin, so we will go from there.”
Elsewhere it was a nightmare day for American pilot Michael Goulian, who lost the championship lead after being eliminated in the first-stage Round of 14 and finished in 12th. That leaves the Massachusetts native in third place in the standings, nine points behind Šonka.
With just 30 points on offer for the remainder of the season only Šonka, Hall and Goulian remain a chance of claiming the title.
The next stop for the 2018 Red Bull Air Race World Championship is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for round seven of the series from October 6-7.
Race result Wiener Neustadt, Austria
- Martin Šonka (CZE)
- Yoshihide Muroya
- Matt Hall (AUS)
- Mika Brageot (FRA)
- Petr Kopfstein (CZE)
- Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA)
- Pete McLeod (CAN)
- Kirby Chambliss (USA)
- Matthias Dolderer (GER)
- François Le Vot (FRA)
- Juan Velarde (ESP)
- Michael Goulian (USA) +0.744
- Ben Murphy (GBR)
- Christian Bolton (CHI)
Current world championship standings
- Martin Šonka (CZE) 64
- Matt Hall (AUS) 58
- Michael Goulian (USA) 55
- Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 34
- Mika Brageot (FRA) 34
- Kirby Chambliss (USA) 22
- François Le Vot (FRA) 21
- Matthias Dolderer (GER) 17
- Juan Velarde (ESP) 16
- Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 16
- Pete McLeod (CAN) 15
- Ben Murphy (GBR) 15
- Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 11
- Christian Bolton (CHI) 6
Story supplied by Matt Hall Racing