Still on a high from his first victory of 2016 at the previous round in Ascot, Australia's Matt Hall sealed a second successive Red Bull Air Race World Championship win with a sensational Final 4 flight at the Lausitzring, beating home favourite Matthias Dolderer and Canda's Pete McLeod to the top of the podium at the German venue.
Returning to the racetrack for the first time since 2010, even rain through the weekend couldn't dampen the action, as Air Race fans were treated to some of the closest racing of the 2016 season so far. In the end though, no one could match Hall for sheer pace and precision when it really mattered.
Buoyed by his season-defining win in the UK the previous month, Hall won the hard way, overcoming Hannes Arch in the closest fought Round of 8 heat of the season by the incredibly tight margin of just 0.002 seconds to make the Final 4.
There he faced off against championship leader and home favourite Dolderer, Czech ace Martin Šonka and McLeod, who was flying in his first Final 4 of the year after a disappointing season to date.
Šonka had endured a tumultuous route to the final after being DQd in qualifying and then squeaking through the Round of 14 against Nigel Lamb, despite recieving a two-second time penalty. Flying first in the Final 4, fortune elduded him again as he twice allowed his plane to stall during vertical climb moves.
A solid flight from McLeod directly after guaranteed the Canadian a very welcome first podium of 2016, but all eyes were on the battle between Hall and Dolderer to see whether the German would go all out for the win on home soil or fly safe with the world championship in mind.
Hall all but decided Dolderer's attack plan for him by flying his fastest run of the weekend in a sensational performance, crossing the line in a scorching time of 53.642s.
A risky maximum attack run would have been required from Dolderer to challenge Hall's time, and although he was briefly up on time during his fist lap, the championship leader flew safe rather than spectacular to secure second, bagging more valuable points. A win would have delighted the home crowd, but Dolderer's eyes are firmly on the bigger prize.
I’ve been second in the World Championship before and I’ve raced right to the wire in Las Vegas before – Matthias hasn’tMatt Hall
Courtesy of his back-to-back wins and elimination of Arch, Hall now moves up to second place in the world championship standings ahead of the Austrian, and with the Australian's current form, Dolderer can't lift off the gas too much just yet.
"This track did suit our style, but the happiest thing is that we're in a groove again. So the plan is no mistakes and always fast," said Hall. "I've got nothing to lose: I've been second in the World Championship before and I've raced right to the wire in Las Vegas before – Matthias hasn't. We'll just take it one race at a time and see what happens."
There was home success for the fans to cheer in the Challenger Cup, as Florian Bergér flew the perfect run to take his second win of the season. Luke Czepiela was a close second, just 0.539s behind, and Britain's Ben Murphy finished third, claiming his second podium of the season.
The Challenger Cup also saw the running of the rescheduled Budapest race, which was postponed due to the terrible weather that hit the Hungary round, and Sweden's Daniel Ryfa grabbed the victory in that. He was unable to do the double though as he uncharacteristically clipped a pylon in the main race and collected a three-second penalty.
Red Bull Air Race Germany final results
1. Matt Hall (AUS)
2. Matthias Dolderer (GER)
3. Pete McLeod (CAN)
4. Martin Sonka (CZE)
5. Hannes Arch (AUT)
6. Michael Goulian (USA)
7. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA)
8. Kirby Chambliss (USA)
9. Juan Velarde (ESP)
10. Nigel Lamb (GBR)
Red Bull Air Race World Championship standings after six of eight rounds
1. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 65.25 points
2. Matt Hall (AUS) 48.75
3. Hannes Arch (AUT) 41.00
4. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 30.25
5. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 30
6. Martin Šonka (CZE) 27
7. Nigel Lamb (GBR) 25.75
8. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 25.50
9. Pete McLeod (CAN) 21.50
10. Michael Goulian (USA) 18.75