The 2018 season has been split into two distinct sections. For the first five races, the pilots competed over water, but the final three races are set to take place over land – two of which will be at world-famous speedways.
The land races bring a different element to the Red Bull Air Race. Pilots say there is a greater sensation of speed, more reference points, with many of the pilots having a clear preference to racing over land versus the water-based tracks.
Looking back over the last two seasons, there is an obvious pattern showing that certain pilots are successful over land and should perform well in Wiener Neustadt this weekend.
Since the start of the 2016 season there have been six races over land (four in 2016, and two last year), all of which have been won by just three pilots: Matthias Dolderer, Matt Hall and Yoshihide Muroya.
Dolderer, Hall and Muroya have each won two races. Dolderer was twice victorious in 2016, the year he was ultimately crowned World Champion. The German pilot took his first career win in Spielberg, following up with a win in Indianapolis at the end of the season. Including his two wins, Dolderer has been on the podium five times out of the six land races. So, what is it that makes land tracks so special for Dolderer?
"I like the land races, and I like being here, its cool to have the standing start again," he said. "I don't really treat the races any differently. But as a side thing, you know that if you have an engine failure, you can land on land and as here is one big airfield, it's not an issue. So it's one less thing to think about. I'm not only motivated, I'm confident."
Matt Hall's two wins also came in 2016, where he won at Ascot and Lausitz. His first ever race win was also over land in Spielberg in 2015 (and he won in Las Vegas in 2015, giving him four land wins in total). Last year he got to grips with a brand new raceplane, but towards the end of the season showed his love for the land by taking second in Laustiz, making it three podiums in six races for the Australian. "I'm more comfortable over land to tell you the truth," explained Hall. "I can take more in and take perspectives, and see what's going on. I'm really looking forward to getting back in the track again."
Hall won in Ascot in 2016 - one of two land-based victories for him that year
Current World Champion Yoshihide Muroya won both the 2017 races that took place over land – and in speedways. It was his strong performances in these tracks that saw him steal the title away from Martin Sonka, who was 10 points clear at the top of the standings after Porto, just before the land races. "It should be good here, it doesn't matter to me if we race over land or water," said Muroya. "But it should be ok for me. I like the standing start, it was good for me in Indy last year. The plane is fast so it could be good for us. And by the time we get to the VTM we should be close to 200kts," he explained.
All three pilots will be looking to take the win over land this weekend. Both Dolderer and Muroya will want to score big in Wiener Neustadt. Neither pilot has hit consistent form like they did in their championship-winning seasons, so could the land give them advantage? With the season finale in sight, Hall is preparing for another race win. Sitting third in the standings, just six points away Goulian in the top spot, the Australian needs to find exceptional form to beat stop Sonka in his tracks and take the lead. "I am confident, the plane is going well, we knew that in Kazan. We were doing well we just made an error. Take the errors out and we're back to winning races," he concluded.
Whatever happens Wiener Neustadt is set for a weekend of adrenaline-pumping high-G racing. You can follow all the action this weekend right HERE.