Red Bull Air Race: Qualifying comeback in Kazan for Dolderer
The second half of the Red Bull Air Race season got off to a thrilling start on Saturday, as former World Champion Matthias Dolderer of Germany, whose hopes for a 2018 title seemed to be on the brink of collapse, surged back in a big way with a Qualifying win in Kazan, Russia.
In front of 55,000 spectators, the USA’s Michael Goulian and Spain’s Juan Velarde were also at the top of the timesheet, while overall leader Matt Hall of Australia shocked in ninth place.
Only four races remain before the 2018 Red Bull Air Race World Champion is crowned, and with Qualifying determining the matchups – and potential advantages – for Race Day on Sunday, no pilot could afford a moment’s hesitation on the fast, unforgiving new racetrack in Kazan.
After setting track records in Free Practice, Hall had seemed invincible. But no one expected the sheer brilliance of the German Dolderer, who, after missing the last race due to illness, flew like the Matthias Dolderer who won the 2016 title, clocking a time of 52.615s and claiming the White Kremlin award (a local award presented to the Kazan Qualifying winner).
And while Goulian and Velarde also managed results under the 53-second mark with 52.820s and 52.969s respectively, Hall was 1.394s off the pace, despite flying cleanly.
“I’m a little bit surprised myself that it went this well, but I thought that I had nothing to lose. I really had fun,and I hope I can repeat it three times tomorrow,’ said an elated Dolderer, referring to the three rounds of flying that will make up Sunday’s Race Day format.
“This was Qualifying, so there are no points yet, and tomorrow is another day. There is some tension of course, some really strong pilots, but I will try to go out there with the same mindset. It’s all a mental game.”
As the fastest Qualifier, Dolderer will face off with the slowest, François Le Vot of France, in Sunday’s opening round, while Hall – who still holds the track record – will go up against the hottest young charger of the season, Frenchman Mika Brageot. Meanwhile one of the most highly anticipated duels will be the Czech Republic’s Martin Šonka, fresh off a June win in Budapest, against Velarde, who has been consistently in the top three across all but one of the Kazan racetrack sessions so far.
In other matchups, Goulian, just two points behind Hall in second overall, will take on Chile’s Cristian Bolton; 2017 Kazan winner Kirby Chambliss (USA) will be challenged by Pete McLeod (CAN); defending World Champion Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) looks toward a showdown with Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA); and Petr Kopfstein (CZE) will fly against rookie Ben Murphy (GBR).
As the pilot who flew the fastest single lap among the two-lap Qualifying runs, Dolderer also claimed the DHL Fastest Lap Award. At the end of the season, the pilot with the most awards will be presented with the DHL Fastest Lap trophy, and Dolderer’s achievement puts him ahead in the standings, with two awards to one each for Šonka, Goulian and Chambliss.
Watch what happens in Kazan! Race Day in Russia is Sunday, 26 August 2018. For tickets and all the latest updates, visit www.redbullairrace.com
Results Master Class Qualifying, Kazan 2018:
- Matthis Dolderer (GER) 52.615,
- Michael Goulian (USA) 52.820,
- Juan Velarde (ESP) 52.969,
- Ben Murphy (GBR) 53.088,
- Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 53.351,
- Mika Brageot (FRA) 53.487,
- Pete McLeod (CAN) 53.747,
- Kirby Chambliss (USA) 53.862,
- Matt Hall (AUS) 54.009,
- Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 54.062,
- Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 54.288,
- Martin Šonka (CZE) 54.356,
- Cristian Bolton (CHI) 54.834,
- François Le Vot (FRA) 55.074
Photo credits: Predrag Vuckovic and Mihai Stetcu/Red Bull Content Pool