The Australian pilot saved his best performance of the entire weekend for his Final 4 flight to take his first victory of the 2016 season, beating series points leader Matthias Dolderer and former champion Hannes Arch on a day that saw the results heavily marked by numerous pilot errors.
In contrast to the previous weather-hit round in Budapest, conditions in Ascot were near perfect for flying all weekend, but that didn't stop the pilot errors from coming thick and fast.
Firstly, Arch, who'd been looking out of sorts all weekend, got a lucky break after he'd already been eliminated in the Round of 14 by the on-form Hall. Two pilots were subsequently DQ'd for over-revving their engines, earning him a reprieve in the shape of a Round of 8 head-to-head against Nigel Lamb, which he subsequently won.
Then, in the Round of 8, heavily favoured Yoshihide Muroya clipped a pylon during a wild run that handed their head-to-head victory to Michael Goulian, rewarding the American with his first Final 4 spot in a number of years.
There were no such problems for Hall and Dolderer, who reached the Final 4 in style, with championship leader Dolderer in particular looking sensational as he broke the course record for a third time during his match up against Martin Šonka.
Hall flew first in the Final 4 and rose to the occasion to fly an almost-flawless run of 1m 03.426s that was by far his fastest of the entire weekend and heaped pressure on the next two men, Goulian and Arch, to deliver. They both cracked.
First, Goulian exceeded the maximum 10-G limit for too long, earning himself a DQ in the process, and then Arch, in a bizarre moment, seemed to totally lose his bearings on course and completely missed Gate 3, ending his run there and then.
This left Dolderer with a decision to make – go all out for the win, or fly a safe run for second place and extend his already healthy championship points lead. The German went for the sensible option, flying a steady race and handing the victory to a jubilant Hall while growing his championship lead nicely. With no official third-place finisher in the Final 4, the podium had to be decided on a count-back to the faster flight time in the Round of 8, handing the final rostrum spot to a somewhat-surprised Arch.
If I win the next three races, there’s another 45 points we put on and we’ll see what happensMatt Hall
"I feel brilliant. I wasn't sure how I was going to be received as the Aussie winning on British soil, but the standing ovation from tens of thousands of people as I got out of the raceplane – these are life memories," Hall said. "We're in a hard position. I can get enough points to beat Matthias, but it depends on what he does. If I win the next three races, there's another 45 points we put on and we’ll see what happens."
Heading into his home round at the Lausitzring in Germany next, Dolderer now holds a commanding 18-point lead over Arch in the World Championship standings, but Hall is closing in on the Austrian fast and now sits just 1.25 points in arrears.
Red Bull Air Race Ascot 2016 results
1. Matt Hall (AUS) 1m 03.426s
2. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 1m 04.887s
3. Hannes Arch (AUT) DNF
4. Michael Goulian (USA) DNF
Red Bull Air Race World Championship standings (After 5 of 8 rounds)
1. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 53.25 points
2. Hannes Arch (AUT) 35
3. Matt Hall (AUS) 33.75
4. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 27.25
5. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 26
6. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 25.5
7. Nigel Lamb (GBR) 24.75
8. Martin Šonka (CZE) 20
9. Pete McLeod (CAN) 12.5
10. Francois Le Vot (FRA) 10
Kevin Coleman scores first Challenger Class win
American pilot Kevin Coleman earned his career-first Challenger Class win on Saturday, with Germany's Florian Bergér and Chilean Cristian Bolton claiming second and third.
After a run of second-place finishes in the three previous rounds, the first-year competitor flew the perfect race in Ascot to take the win over Bergér by almost half a second.
"It's awesome. This is something I’ve dreamed of since I was 13 years old and I turned 26 in June, so it took 13 years to do it," said Coleman. "We've worked really hard all year, and there have been two races that I absolutely wanted to win – Ascot and Indianapolis. So we've got one checked off and hopefully we can go to Indy and win there, too."