CHIBA JAPAN – SPORTS – After four Red Bull Air Race World Championship podiums including three near misses in second place, Australia’s Matt Hall finally achieved the holy grail at the season finale in Chiba, Japan on Sunday, defeating home hero Yoshihide Muroya by a single point. To the delight of the weekend’s 98,000 passionate fans, Muroya had his own moments in the spotlight as he won the race and took second in the World Championship. Martin Šonka of the Czech Republic claimed third place on the overall podium.
Matt Hall said “I didn’t even care where I came in the race – I just knew when we all made it through to the Final 4 that I had to make the podium, and then I heard about Pete’s pylon hit. The conditions were tricky, and I thought that I could hate myself for the rest of my life if I made a penalty, so I tried to play it safe without letting up too much. Now I need to go and absorb this, but mate, when I’m 90 I’m going to be telling everyone I’m the World Champion.”
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- Hall’s achievement came not a moment too soon. In the close to 12 World Championship seasons and 94 races, the Red Bull Air Race will not be continued past 2019, making the race in Chiba his last chance for the iconic trophy. The crowds were on their feet even before the race started, and the first shock of the day came in the initial head-to-head, when Muroya, hoping to fly to the title from third place overall, lost to Great Britain’s Ben Murphy by just 0.015s.
- The second stunner happened minutes later, when overall leader Martin Šonka slipped in his own opening round faceoff against Nicolas Ivanoff of France, pulling too hard for an Over G. The one-second penalty suddenly took the 2018 World Champion out of the running for a repeat crown.
- Miraculously, when the Round of 8 took off, Muroya was still in the fight, having advanced as the fastest loser. The title was down to the Japanese superstar, who was determined to win his second career World Championship, and Australia’s Hall focused on his last-chance mission. Both made it through to the Final 4 – where they would face each other as well as the USA’s Kirby Chambliss and Canada’s Pete McLeod.
- In the climactic round, Canada’s Pete McLeod crumbled with penalties. Muroya played it safe for a conservative 58.630s and Chambliss was 0.971s behind him. Hall needed only to finish third to take the title, and with the world on his shoulders, the Australian coolly did just what he needed to do, flying to 1:00.052 for his long-awaited honour. Final race results: Muroya first, Chambliss second, Hall third.
- While he did not win the World Championship title, Muroya’s season was still remarkable, winning three races to one for Hall, and clinching his third career home race victory in Chiba. Chambliss’ race podium was also a fitting finish, as the American has won two Red Bull Air Race titles himself and has the longest career in the sport.
Results Master Class race, Chiba 2019: 1.Yoshihide Muroya (JPN), 2. Kirby Chambliss (USA), 3. Matt Hall (AUS), 4. Pete McLeod (CAN), 5. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA), 6. Mika Brageot (FRA), 7. François Le Vot (FRA), 8. Ben Murphy (GBR), 9. Michael Goulian (USA), 10. Juan Velarde (ESP), 11. Cristian Bolton (CHI), 12. Matthias Dolderer (GER), 13. Martin Šonka (CZE), 14. Petr Kopfstein (CZE)
Final standings, 2019 Red Bull Air Race World Championship: 1. Matt Hall (AUS) 81 pts, 2. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 80 points, 3. Martin Šonka (CZE) 68 points, 4. Ben Murphy (GBR) 48 pts, 5. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 48 pts, 6. Pete McLeod (CAN) 48 pts, 7. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 47 pts, 8. Mika Brageot (FRA) 44 pts, 9. Michael Goulian (USA) 42 pts, 10. Juan Velarde (ESP) 39 pts, 11. François Le Vot (FRA) 34 pts, 12. Cristian Bolton (CHI) 27 pts, 13. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 10 pts, 14. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 6 pts
RED BULL AIR RACE 2019 CALENDAR
8-9 February: Abu Dhabi, UAE
15-16 June: Kazan, Russia
13-14 July: Lake Balaton, Hungary
7-8 September: Chiba, Japan