One of the most consistent and tenacious pilots in the Red Bull Air Race, Australia's Matt Hall has stood on the second step of the World Championship podium for two years running. This season, Matt Hall Racing will work harder than ever to claim the title for their own, but they're facing one of their biggest challenges yet.
Hall is a third-generation pilot and his country's foremost aviator. He flew solo in a glider at age 15, got his pilot's licence at 18, and has flown more than 5,500 hours in various aircraft. A decorated former Wing Commander in the Royal Australian Air Force, he was named Fighter Pilot of the Year and became a Fighter Combat (Top Gun) Instructor. Australia's only Red Bull Air Race pilot also competed on the international level in aerobatics, winning the Australian Advanced Aerobatic Championship, then finishing first in Freestyle and second overall in the Unlimited category. The Honourable Company of Air Pilots honoured him with the 2015 Australian Bi-Centennial Award for his outstanding contribution to aviation.
In 2009, his debut season in the World Championship, Hall became the first rookie ever to stand on a race podium and on the overall podium (third). In 2015, he earned his first two race wins and was the only pilot with the tenacity and skill to challenge favourite Paul Bonhomme right up to the season finale, missing the World Championship by just five points.
In the Red Bull Air Race 2016, Hall overcame a string of bad luck including the flare-up of an old injury, bouncing back with four consecutive appearances in the Final 4 that were highlighted by a third place result in Budapest and back-to-back wins at Ascot and the EuroSpeedway Lausitz. Not only did the Australian manage to keep the pressure on eventual World Champion Matthias Dolderer, but he clinched his second-place spot on the overall podium even before the season finale.
All the members of Matt Hall Racing – the pilot and chief technician Eric Cieslar, tactician Peter Wezenbeek and new team coordinator Andrew Musgrove – had an unexpectedly hectic off-season. In the days before the final race of the 2016 season they discovered an issue with their MXS-R raceplane and were forced to sit out the Las Vegas round. They determined that the only solution was to find another aircraft for their 2017 campaign.
Hall explains, "We had a challenging year as a team in 2016, which probably came down to trying too hard. Now for 2017 we have a few more hurdles as we switch from our MXS-R to an Edge 540. We will be on a learning curve and expect some teething problems as we learn to operate the aircraft to its full potential, but we have a good team and we're motivated to make this plane fast." He continues, "The aim for us is to enjoy 2017 and consolidate the new aircraft and team. Our goal is to be a race-winning combination by year's end."