Less than two tenths of a second separated Australia’s Matt Hall from victory at the second stop of the 2019 Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Kazan, Russia, with the spoils going to former world champion Yoshihide Muroya of Japan who collected his second win on the trot.
Sunday (Russian time) was all about a trio of the world title heavyweights from recent seasons, as three-time championship runner-up Hall, 2017 title winner Muroya and reigning champ Martin Šonka of the Czech Republic filled the top three positions.
After defeating American Michael Goulian in the first stage of Sunday’s race, Hall then triumphed over French veteran Nicolas Ivanoff in the second stanza.
That put the Aussie in a four-way battle for victory against Muroya, Šonka and another Frenchman, François Le Vot. The Japanese pilot flew first, setting the benchmark, which neither Šonka nor Le Vot could beat. Then came Hall, who jumped the latter two and put Muroya to the sword, only to fall a whisker short of setting the winning time.
Although he missed the top step of the podium by the narrowest of margins, Hall was happy to have turned his fortunes in Russia around. The past two years in Kazan have netted results of sixth and seventh respectively, and on Saturday the former Australian fighter pilot was left ninth and in the wake of his competitors during qualifying. Hall said hard work and a better understanding of his own flying led to today’s strong result.
“Kazan has been a place I haven’t got a trophy from before, it’s good to say we have a trophy from most places in air race and after yesterday I was quite concerned about our ability to get on the podium today,” a relieved Hall said.
“We knew we could do it and we worked really hard overnight and this morning and got our times where we wanted them. We worked on my flying style, we knew the plane was good and we identified that there were some environmental issues which hindered us yesterday.
“This track has had the tendency to change conditions and affect times by a second or two with wind gusts and headwinds this weekend. Yesterday we were affected a little bit by that, and it was also a little bit about some of the lines we flew, and we addressed that too.”
Irrespective of how he got on the podium, Hall was most pleased to collect his first piece of silverware in 2019, following a fifth-place finish in the Abu Dhabi opener in February.
“It’s good to be back on the podium. We weren’t just on it; we were deep in the mix and pretty close to first,” Hall said.
“It was a needed podium, my theory since the announcement that we would only have a four-race season is that you have to win two races and podium one race. So, Yoshi has won two and I need to win the next two to be world champion.”
Sunday’s result vaults Hall from fifth to third in the world championship standings, where he now trails Muroya and Šonka. With just 17 points separating the top three, and 56 still on the table across the final two races in Hungary and Japan, the series is set for a tantalising title chase before it is wrapped up for good in September.
The third race of the 2019 Red Bull Air Race World Championship will take place on July 13-14 at Lake Balaton, Hungary.
KAZAN RACE RESULTS:
Yoshihide Muroya (JPN)
Matt Hall (AUS)
Martin Šonka (CZE)
François Le Vot (FRA)
Ben Murphy (GBR)
Cristian Bolton (CHI)
Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA)
Mika Brageot (FRA)
Pete McLeod (CAN)
Michael Goulian (USA)
Juan Velarde (ESP)
Kirby Chambliss (USA)
Petr Kopfstein (CZE)
Matthias Dolderer (GER) – DNS
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) – 53
Martin Šonka (CZE) – 44
Matt Hall (AUS) – 36
Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) – 30
Mika Brageot (FRA) – 26
Michael Goulian (USA) – 25
François Le Vot (FRA) – 21
Juan Velarde (ESP) – 16
Ben Murphy (GBR) – 15
Cristian Bolton (CHI) – 13
Kirby Chambliss (USA) – 13
Pete McLeod (CAN) – 10
Petr Kopfstein (CZE) – 5
Matthias Dolderer (GER) – 3
VIDEO: Highlights from the Red Bull Air Race event in Kazan, Russia from the competition’s YouTube channel.
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