BUDAPEST, Hungary – Australia’s Matt Hall took top honors in Qualifying on Saturday for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship stop in Budapest on a hot afternoon and will be the man to beat in Sunday’s race, the fourth of eight races in the world’s fastest motorsport series.
Winning Qualifying for the first time in his career, Hall proved to be a master of the heat on the spectacular track set up in the heart of the Hungarian capital with its one-of-a-kind start beneath the iconic Chain Bridge and stopped the clock in a blazing time of 58.323 seconds. Yoshihide Muroya of Japan took second in the high-speed, low-altitude action where pilots hit speeds of up to 370 km/h while Hannes Arch of Austria, who won the last race in Rovinj, bounced back from training results to take third.
Accustomed to flying in the heat at home in Australia, Hall seemed to thrive on the high temperatures in Hungary that soared above 35 degrees as tens of thousands of spectators filled the streets of Budapest while withstanding the heat to watch the Qualifying action. The Australian also posted the fastest time in all three training sessions before Qualifying and will be looking for a first career win on Sunday.
“It’s special,” said Hall when asked how it felt to get his first Qualifying win. “It’s been a good week so far, and one more day to go. Hopefully we can keep doing what we’ve been doing. The airplane is starting to fit like a glove. We put the new winglets on at the start of the year and I’m really starting to ring it out in the turns. I’m really flying tight turns out there and there’s where I think I’m saving so much time.”
Hungary’s Peter Besenyei, the 2003 champion, took 10th place in Qualifying as thousands of fans cheered him in his new Edge 540 V3 airplane from the banks of the majestic Danube River. Championship leader Paul Bonhomme, who like Hall has 25 points at the top, was back in eighth place after a penalty-marred Qualifying and will face Martin Sonka of the Czech Republic, who was ahead of him in seventh, in the Round of 14 on Sunday.
What makes the race in Budapest especially exciting for spectators is that the planes are flying just above the waters in the Danube river bed and crowds can see the planes flying by at high speeds below or at the same level. Unlike in past seasons when there were only two or three pilots challenging for race victories and the championship, the entire field this year is wide open with 10 of the 14 pilots flying fast enough at times to win the race.
In the Red Bull Air Race, which is the official world championship of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the world’s top pilots hit speeds of 370 km/h while enduring forces of up to 10G as they navigate as precisely as possible through a low-level slalom track marked by 25-meter high air-filled pylons.
Qualifying Results: 1. Matt Hall (AUS) 58.323, 2. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 59.011, 3. Hannes Arch (AUT) 59.328, 4. Pete McLeod (CAN) 59.480, 5. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 59.496, 6. Nigel Lamb (GBR) 59.553, 7. Martin Sonka (CZE) 59.756, 8. Paul Bonhomme (GBR) 59.812, 9. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 1:00.151, 10. Peter Besenyei (HUN) 1:00.862, 11. Francois Le Vot (FRA) 1:02.364, 12. Juan Velarde (Spain) 1:03.839, 13. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 1:03.974, 14. Michael Goulian (USA) 1:04.403