Nearly 84,000 Red Bull Air Race World Championship fans crowded the Riviera in Cannes, France, as Australia’s Matt Hall climbed to the top of the leaderboard after what he described as a “hard fought Final 4” win over competitors Matthias Dolderer of Germany and Michael Goulian of the United States.
“Today was an awesome day, the venue is amazing, and this is just as exciting as my first win ever,” Hall said in a post-race interview posted on the Red Bull website. He turned a 57.692-second run into his best performance yet in the Edge 540 aircraft that he praised as “a brilliant plane.” Hall complimented the field of pilots in the Final 4 by noting that “any of them can win—every second counts, as you saw between me and Matthias [Dolderer]” who placed second (57.764 seconds), and Goulian, who joined them on the podium with a third-place finish (58.083 seconds).
Sonka said he was “very, very, very, very disappointed” that the engine rpm issue held him back. “It looks like we were two seconds longer in the maximum RPM,” he noted, “because the automatic system we have didn't react properly” in the start gate. Sonka said the penalty was “not pleasant, but I'm thinking about how we can fix the raceplane rather than the emotional side of the problem.”
Goulian said he was “a little bit out of rhythm” since arriving in France and “struggled early in the week” during practice. The AOPA Ambassador and U.S. favorite commuted to Europe after a series of aerobatic performances at the recently concluded Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo in Lakeland, Florida. The podium finish followed a season-opening win in February at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and allowed Goulian to maintain control of the overall leaderboard.
Defending World Champion Yoshihide Muroya of Japan received a two-second penalty that dropped him to fourth place as the race circuit headed to Chiba, Japan, May 26 and 27. Muroya said he was “looking forward to flying at home” and planned to include “a lot of testing” before the next stop of the series. “Five points in the championship is nothing and I think it's better to be in third or second place and then take the top spot in Chiba.”
Race director Jim Dimatteo thanked race fans, officials, and leaders in France for making the first race there a success. He said the setting in Cannes was “perfect” and complimented the area as “one of the most beautiful backdrops that I’ve seen, anywhere we’ve raced.”
After Japan, the race series has confirmed stops June 23 and 24 in Budapest, Hungary; Aug. 25 and 26 in Kazan, Russia; and Oct. 6 and 7 at its only U.S. venue—the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway and site of the Indianapolis 500—where a party is planned for AOPA friends and guests. AOPA plans to keep the excitement going with live music, drinks, food, and plenty more as air race enthusiasts take in the one-of-a-kind experience from the iconic Panasonic Pagoda and Yard of Bricks. Tickets go on sale May 1.