SPIELBERG, Austria — Australia’s Matt Hall won the Red Bull Air Race World Championship race in the Austrian Alps with a victory on Sunday, beating Britain’s Paul Bonhomme into second place in a dramatic final.
American Kirby Chambliss got his first podium since the race in New York City in 2010 with third.
Getting the first victory of his career, Hall was flawless in the final on a windy afternoon. His time of 56.851 seconds was the fastest of the day and was just enough to beat Bonhomme (56.908 seconds) in the high-speed, low-altitude race to collect 12 championship points. Hall’s victory by 0.057 second was the narrowest in the history of the Red Bull Air Race, breaking the previous record of 0.071 second in Rovinj.
Hall’s heart-stopping win in front of this weekend’s 20,000 spectators gives him 50 world championship points and narrowed Bonhomme’s lead to just five points after six races, setting the stage for a thrilling conclusion to the season with two stops left in the United States.
“It feels awesome,” said Hall, who has been on the podium in five of six races this year and has come tantalizingly close to his first victory several times with three second-place finishes. “It’s good to get that first win and get that off my back. It’s been a hard day, a very hard day,” he added, referring to the choppy winds that caused a number of upsets in the opening round of 14. Hall even had a pylon hit in the first round but still advanced against Juan Velarde of Spain. “I went for the win in the Final Four, had a clean flight and a good flight.”
Racing just meters above the ground at speeds of up to 370 km/h, the 14 pilots from 11 nations faced extraordinary challenges on the Spielberg track, set up on the infield of the Formula One race track. Not only did they have to contend with trees and undulating mountain slopes, along with considerable turbulence and gusty winds, they also had to deal with a difficult 61-meter change in elevation that makes the Spielberg stop so challenging for the pilots.
Despite getting knocked out in the opening round, Austria’s Hannes Arch, who is third overall with 30 points, still holds the track record time of 55.545 seconds set last year in Qualifying in cooling temperatures in October.
The battle for fourth place overall also remained tense after Spielberg ahead of the final two stops in the United States, in Fort Worth, Texas on Sept. 26-27 and Las Vegas on Oct. 17-18.
In the Red Bull Air Race, which is the official world championship of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), the world’s top pilots endure forces of up to 10G as they navigate as precisely as possible through a low-level slalom track marked by 25-metre high air-filled pylons.
Results Spielberg: 1. Matt Hall (AUS), 2. Paul Bonhomme (GBR), 3. Kirby Chambliss (USA), 4. Martin Sonka (CZE), 5. Pete McLeod (CAN), 6. Matthias Dolderer (GER), 7. Michael Goulian (USA), 8. Peter Besenyei (HUN), 9. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA), 10. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN), 11. Juan Velarde (ESP), 12. Hannes Arch (AUT), 13. Nigel Lamb (GBR), 14. François Le Vot (FRA)
World Championship standings: 1. Bonhomme 55 points, 2. Hall 50, 3. Arch 30, 4. Sonka 23, 5. McLeod 18, 6. Lamb 17, 7. Dolderer 15, 8. Muroya 11, 9. Ivanoff 11, 10. Goulian 10, 11. Chambliss 9, 12. Besenyei 8, 13. Velarde, 14. Le Vot.