15 Jul 2019

Red Bull Air Race: Balaton win for Australia’s Hall rocks World Championship standings

Australian pilot Matt Hall blew the Red Bull Air Race World Championship open on Sunday with a steely win at the sport’s historic first race at Lake Balaton, Hungary.

Finishing second, Great Britain’s Ben Murphy clinched the first race podium of his young World Championship career, and in third, Canada’s Pete McLeod grabbed his first race podium since 2018.

Meanwhile, an early exit for Japan’s Yoshihide Muroya enabled defending World Champion Martin Šonka of the Czech Republic to jump to the top of the overall standings despite hitting a pylon in the Final 4.

“That was good," Hall said. "I pushed pretty hard there, and I took all the angles I could. I could feel the gates going past, I could feel them whooshing past the winglets. That was about all I had in this track.  

"I just knew I had to go for it, because there’s no point in coming in second with the points at the moment. I have clawed back on Martin, and I’ve definitely clawed back on Yoshi. It means going into this race in Chiba will be… not fun, but exciting. She’s a tight race.”

Some 100,000 spectators on the beaches of the resort town of Zamárdi got a thrilling introduction to the 370 km/h sport, as fickle winds that went from blustery to calm defied the 14 pilots of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in the racetrack over Lake Balaton.

After winning the initial two races of the season, Muroya hoped to wrap up the World Championship in Hungary, but it was not to be, as he lost his opening round head-to-head against Hall, a three-time overall runner-up who had declared his intention to win the season’s last two races and claim the title.  

By the Final 4, Šonka already knew that he would be taking the overall lead from Muroya, but by how much? Hall, Murphy and McLeod all managed times under 59 seconds, with Hall the best at 58.839, just 0.118s ahead of the former Red Arrows Team Leader Murphy.

In a rare lapse of concentration, Šonka failed to capitalise on the chance to take maximum points, clipping a pylon in only the fourth gate, for a three-second penalty and a finish at 1:02.391.

Now it all comes down to the last race of 2019, the season finale in Chiba, Japan on 7-8 September. A possible 28 points is on offer for Muroya’s home race: 3 points for the winner of Qualifying plus 25 points for the race winner.

Šonka’s overall lead is precarious, at 65 points to 61 for Hall and 55 for Muroya. Also, a slew of contenders are in position to seize a place in the top three. 

Results Master Class, Lake Balaton 2019

  1. Matt Hall (AUS)
  2. Ben Murphy (GBR)
  3. Pete McLeod (CAN)
  4. Martin Šonka (CZE)
  5. Juan Velarde (ESP)
  6. Kirby Chambliss (USA)
  7. Michael Goulian (USA)
  8. Cristian Bolton (CHI)
  9. Petr Kopfstein (CZE)
  10. Mika Brageot (FRA)
  11. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA)
  12. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN)
  13. Matthias Dolderer(GER)
  14. François Le Vot (FRA)

World Championship standings after three races

  1. Martin Šonka (CZE) 65 points
  2. Matt Hall (AUS) 61 pts
  3. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 55 points
  4. Ben Murphy (GBR) 37 pts
  5. Michael Goulian (USA) 37 pts
  6. Nicolas Ivanoff(FRA) 33 pts
  7. Juan Velarde (ESP) 32 pts
  8. Mika Brageot (FRA) 31 pts
  9. Pete McLeod (CAN) 30 pts
  10. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 26 pts
  11. Cristian Bolton (CHI) 24 pts
  12. François Le Vot (FRA) 21 pts
  13. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 10 pts
  14. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 4 pts

Photo credits: Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool