© 2016 Red Bull Media House GmbH - all rights reserved

© 2016 Red Bull Media House GmbH – all rights reserved

Australian and German pilots scorched the Red Bull Air Race track with sub-59-second times in Qualifying on Friday.

Race Day in Abu Dhabi is Saturday. Abu Dhabi (UAE) – At the 2016 season opener of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi on Friday, Australia’s Matt Hall showed the form that made him the overall runner-up in 2015 by winning Qualifying. But he’ll need to push even harder in the Finals on Saturday. Hall’s time of 58.079 was less than two-tenths of a second ahead of the 58.268 logged by Germany’s Matthias Dolderer, while American Michael Goulian, making the most of new raceplane modifications, finished third with 59.184.

Due to the retirement of 2015 titleholder Paul Bonhomme, the World Champion spot is wide open in this eight-race season that spans seven countries. Fourteen of the world’s best pilots kicked off their campaigns with an intense Qualifying Day on the Corniche off the Arabian Gulf. Among the most experienced, former World Champions Hannes Arch of Austria (2008) and Nigel Lamb of Great Britain (2014) were in sixth and seventh position, while newcomers Petr Kopfstein of the Czech Republic and Peter Podlunšek of Slovenia delivered solid performances for eleventh and thirteenth. In the head-to-head knockout battles of the Round of 14 on Saturday, Hall’s pole position means that he will go up against 2006 World Champion Kirby Chambliss of the USA.

“The wind did come up, so for the first run I took a conservative line. Then once I had a good run in the bag, I went back to our original line and flew even faster,” said Hall, who is especially keen to earn Matt Hall Racing’s first World Championship after missing out to Bonhomme in 2015 by a mere 5 points. “We’ll keep flying conservatively and we’ll see how it plays out.”

Matt Hall of Australia was awarded the DHL Fastest Lap Award, a component introduced this season that defines a new standard of speed at the Red Bull Air Race. At each race, the DHL Fastest Lap Award goes to the pilot who has clocked the fastest single lap among all of the two-lap Qualifying runs. At the end of the season, the pilot with the most awards across the eight races will be awarded the DHL Fastest Lap trophy.

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Results Master Class Qualifying, Abu Dhabi: 1. Matt Hall (AUS) 58.079, 2. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 58.268, 3. Michael Goulian (USA) 59.184, 4. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 59.242, 5. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 59.523, 6. Hannes Arch (AUT) 59.764, 7. Nigel Lamb (GBR) 1:00.160, 8. Pete McLeod (CAN) 1:00.424, 9. Juan Velarde (ESP) 1:01.008, 10. Martin Šonka (CZE) 1:01.503, 11. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 1:01.972, 12. François Le Vot (FRA) 1:02.135, 13. Peter Podlunšek (SLO) 1:02.154, 14. Kirby Chambliss (USA) DNF