Sixteen years after the first aerobatic pilot dropped in between the unmistakable inflatable pylons that mark the exhilarating Red Bull Air Race course, the competition is over. The final race took place this past weekend in Chiba, Japan. The last Red Bull Air Race World Champion standing atop the podium was Australian Matt Hall, who inched out the home field competitor, Yoshihide Muroya, by only one point. Muroya, however, had a very satisfying end to the season, by winning the final race in front of his countrymen. Czech pilot Martin Sonka finished in third place.
Hall had come close to the top spot on the podium before. He had finished second three times, and third once, in the cumulative World Championship. Coming into the final race of the season, Hall was, once again, the runner up. With this being his last opportunity, Hall’s desire to win was greater than ever.
“I’ve been through this, but there was more pressure because it was the last chance,” he said. “I was trying to play it cool, but deep down I was working really hard mentally to keep it en route.”
Ahead by four points was Sonka. But he was eliminated in the Round of 14, walking away with only three points. His loss left the top slot for the Championship open. All Hall had to do to stay ahead of Muroya was to beat Pete McLeod’s time. He did that and finished third, accumulating enough points to beat Muroya.
The Americans had a tough season, with Michael Goulian, who finished third place last year, finishing ninth and Kirby Chambliss fifth. However, Chambliss likely came home happy as he snagged second place in the final competition.
The 2019 season only saw four competitions, half the number of races that have generally taken place in past years. Three additional air races were originally planned for this year: one in Asia, one in Indianapolis and a final one in Saudi Arabia. However, Red Bull announced in May that the three final competitions were taken off the schedule and that 2019 would be the last season for the races.