Australia’s Matt Hall posted the fastest time in one of the most important training sessions on Thursday ahead of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship Qualifying on Friday for the season opening race in Abu Dhabi.

ABU DHABI – The former Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) fighter pilot set the pace on the spectacular racetrack set up just above the waters of the Arabian Gulf and in front of Abu Dhabi’s glistening skyline, stopping the clock in 56.747 seconds with Hannes Arch of Austria in second place 0.193 seconds behind and Britain’s Paul Bonhomme back in third place, 0.451 behind. There will be 14 pilots chasing world championship points in Saturday’s race in the UAE capital city that kicks off the 8 race season of the world’s fastest motorsport series.

“There aren’t any Red Bull World Championship points handed out two days before the Final 4 but it’s nice to know that I found a good line through the track and that I’m flying consistently,” Hall said after his blistering run through the high-speed, low-altitude track.

Hall had been consistently second behind just Bonhomme in several of the previous training sessions on Tuesday,Wednesday and Thursday and will go into Friday’s final training session and Qualifying full of confidence. Matt Hall Racing added the 750-millimeter high upright winglets to the outer edges of the wings his MXS-R airplane, which he believes will help him maintain more speed in the high-G turns.  “We developed the winglets to improve efficiency but we knew that we needed to become more consistent to maximize that efficiency and that’s what I’ve been aiming to do all week.”

It has been a disappointing week for defending world champion Nigel Lamb of Great Britain. Lamb has struggled in training and been well off the pace set by Bonhomme, Arch and Hall. He could do no better than sixth place and was 1.286 second behind Hall in training. “I’ve got some work to do,” said Lamb. “When you’re way down the time sheets, it’s not a fun place to be.”

The Red Bull Air Race, in which pilots navigate a low-level slalom track made up of 25-meter high air-filled pylons at speeds of up to 370 km/h, is the official World Championship of air racing recognized by the FAI – Federation Aeronautique Internationale. The 2015 world championship kicks off on Saturday and can be watched at

- Advertisement -