Matt Hall’s Engine Woes

Has the Australian team fixed its raceplane problems?

Matt Hall had significant trouble with his engine in Abu Dhabi, leading him to comment that he “... tried to fix it with a Band Aid, but it needs surgery.” With no quick fix solutions to hand, and with Kazan just around the corner, has the team had enough time to solve their engine problems? Although the team is based in Australia, Matt Hall's raceplane has remained in Europe ahead of the race in Kazan. We spoke to Hall about his engine’s diagnosis and how the 'surgery' has been going.

“As we went into race-mode and started to push the engine a bit harder we were getting one cylinder that was misbehaving. The symptoms were, basically, it was getting a lot hotter than the others. And while it’s not unsafe, it is something we needed to look at, because there was something that wasn’t happy,” explained Hall. 

At first Hall downplayed how the engine issues were affecting the team. But it has since become apparent that they were perilously close to obtaining a DNS result at the season opener. “We weren’t sure we were going to be able to race on Race Day. We worked all night, and Finchy [David Finch, Matt Hall Racing's team technician] declared it safe, but we couldn’t solve the problem. So immediately after the race, as we were breaking down the plane for shipping, we had to make the decision – do we take the engine off and send it to America, when the rest of the aircraft is heading to Germany, or do we send it all to Germany?”

Hall and his team had just an hour to make the critical choice that could affect their entire season. “Our decision was based on the fact that our aircraft was still serviceable and safe. It was a case of 'better the devil you know'. We could have sent the engine to Lycoming and had the engine overhauled, but when you get the engine back you have to start from scratch with tuning it, and then run it in."

With a hiatus between races, the team made the decision to take of diagnosing and fixing the problem under their own steam. "We figured we were better off spending time ourselves with the engine in Germany as a team, and analysing everything single piece bit by bit until we found something wrong and fixed it."

"Or we might found nothing, and then we could concentrate on the cooling systems, rather than the aircraft itself.  And if we were still not happy, we could then ask for the Air Race’s spare engine and put that on for the next race and then send the engine away,” Hall explained. 

David Finch and Andrew Musgrove discuss the raceplane engine issues

With Hall and his team based in Australia and his raceplane in Germany, they haven’t had as much time with the aircraft as they would have liked. Subsequently, it’s been a race to the wire to have the Edge 540 ready for Kazan. “The engine issue hasn’t been resolved yet, due to the access we have to the aircraft. But we have put a plan in place. The key to stress management and improvement is having a plan with back up plans. And if there’s one thing we’re really good at, it’s planning and having contingencies in place. So if plan A doesn’t work, we have plan B, C and D armed and ready to go, and that’s exactly where we’re at.”

One thing you can be sure of, and that no matter what, Matt Hall is heading into Kazan with a Master Plan – to win. “We’re very confident that plan A will work. The team is awesome at data analysis, problem solving, and problem fixing. I’m sure we’re be back up to top speed and winning races like we were last season," Hall said. "And with seven races still to go in the season and coming fifth in Abu Dhabi it’s still a solid start. Moving forward for this season I’ve told the team: let’s get the plane fixed, and then the attitude will be that it’s a seven race season, and we’re starting the season with some points in the bag. We’re only a little bit off the pace in terms of points, and if we win the next seven races, nobody is going to be able to touch us,” he concluded. 

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