MEREWETHER pilot Matt Hall encountered engine issues on the way to a finish place in the opening round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship season opener in Abu Dhabi.
Former world champion Yoshihide Muroya won the his first race win since he claimed the title in 2017. Defending champions Martin Šonka was second ahead of American Michael Goulian.
For Hall, race day was a rollercoaster of emotion that began with a technical test flight to determine if they had been able to rectify an over-heating engine cylinder.
His team put in place a contingency plan that was good enough to beat British pilot Ben Murphy in the head-to-head knockout Round of 14. The back-up plan nearly worked a second time, only for Hall to fall to Šonka in the Round of eight by 0.256 seconds.
“We came into today knowing that we had some issues and it was all about trying to nurse the aircraft through the day,” Hall said. “In saying that, I was pushing as hard as I could, but the plane is just not happy at the moment. It’s mixed emotions for us, as we could’ve not flown. We had to have a discussion about ‘are we actually going to go out there today?’ So, to come in fifth was a great result considering we may have not even started.”