EYES ON THE PRIZE: After close seasons in 2015 and 2016, and a rebuilding period last season, Newcastle’s Matt Hall is ready to challenge for the top spot. Picture: Predrag Vuckovic/Red Bull MediaMatt Hall has one goal for the new season –gun for the elusive Red Bull Air Race World Championship.
It’s proved elusive for the ace Novocastrian pilot, and he’s not hiding his desire to walk away with the crown.
“For our team, 2017 was spent as a learning year and we got the plane to a place where we wanted it to be,” he said. “For this season  we think we have got it going even better.”
Hall came close to the first place finish that he is aiming for in both 2015 and 2016, before behind-the-scene changes grounded his hopes last year.
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He, and his backroom staff, believe that when they take off at Abu Dhabi, UAE this weekend for the opening fixture, they’ll be more than prepared for the challenge however.
“We’re back in Abu Dhabi for the season opener …it’s always good to be here,” Hall said. “This year we are back to be competitive.”
“There’s no point being in it if you’re not trying to win it. We’re definitely trying to win the championship.
“I would like to think that we are one of the contenders, so we’re just going to do what we can, and do our best at each race.”
NEW DIGS: Hall is flying on new wings, with a new brand sponsor, for the 2018 season. Picture: Predrag Vuckovic/Red Bull Media
Although the former RAAF pilot certainly has confidence in his sails as they speed towards the start of the season, he won’t be discounting the tough field that the Air Race Championship always brings with it.
There are 14 pilots gunning for the title of the best in the sky, and there’ll be eight races across the calendar season to split the challengers from the ‘also-rans’.
“You always arrive at round one …not knowing what work your competitors have done in the off-season,” Hall revealed.
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“You try and have a look and suss out where they’re at, but inevitably you need to focus on yourself.
“Our team has put a significant amount of effort into our off-season to improve our power and handling. We think it’s gone in the right direction.”
The first round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship will kick-off this evening in Abu Dhabi, with the opening qualifying race beginning at 11pmtonight.
Watch the Abu Dhabi Air Race round live from 11pm.Saturday will then see the competition flare up, with the Round of 14 elimination series beginning from 9pm.
The second round of the Championship series will be hosted in Cannes, France –the first time the event has been held in the region. The debut French race will begin on April 21.