Matt Hall of Australia continued a late-season charge by earning his second consecutive pole position with the top time in Qualifying for the Red Bull Air Race season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. However, fans of the four pilots still in contention for the World Championship were stunned as the leaders finished down the timesheet, pitting favorites Martin Šonka (CZE) and Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) against each other in Sunday’s opening head-to-heads.

INDIANAPOLIS (USA) – The first-ever Red Bull Air Race season finale at the holy grail of motorsport was already shaping up to be one of the most exciting in history, with Šonka, Muroya, Canada’s Pete McLeod and the USA’s Kirby Chambliss still in the running for the title. Meanwhile Hall – who finished overall runner-up the past two seasons but has had a building year in 2017 after introducing a new raceplane – can’t win the title, but he can definitely play the spoiler at Indy. His top time of 1:04.149 on Saturday seemed a clear indication of his intention to do so.

In fact, when Qualifying was over, it was obvious that more spoilers are in the pack, with Peter Kopfstein of the Czech Republic and Juan Velarde of Spain claiming second and third. Separated by only a thousandth of a second in fourth and fifth respectively, Šonka and McLeod fared the best of the four World Championship contenders, but the shockers were Muroya and Chambliss, who finished down in 11th and 12th.

With the Race Day drama less than 24 hours away, Qualifying results determined the head-to-head matchups for the opening Round of 14. Hall will fly against the slowest Qualifier, Cristian Bolton of Chile, while Chambliss races Velarde, and McLeod faces Mikaël Brageot of France. The showdown between Šonka and Muroya will be unmissable – potentially eliminating one of the two top contenders early on, unless the slower pilot is lucky enough to advance by being the “fastest loser” of the round’s seven defeated contenders.

After Qualifying, Hall, who made the Final Four in Indianapolis last year, commented, “I think we’ve got the speed to win a race now, and the confidence.” When asked whether he would be looking to upset the plans of the four men in the title fight, he stated, “I would not want to be in the position of those four pilots at the moment. Every time I’ve been in the thick of the World Championship, it’s been two of us going for it. Four guys is hard work.”

Noting that wind conditions are expected to change overnight, Hall concluded, “And tomorrow will be a completely new day.”

Hall also claimed the DHL Fastest Lap Award for flying the fastest single lap among the Qualifying runs. In a special ceremony, Canada’s Pete McLeod was presented with the DHL Fastest Lap trophy for having accumulated the most DHL Fastest Lap Awards across the 2017 season, doing so at a record four of eight stops.

Results Master Class Qualifying, Indianapolis 2017: 1. Matt Hall (AUS) 1:04.149, 2. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 1:04.390, 3. Juan Velarde (ESP) 1:05.400, 4. Martin Šonka (CZE) 1:05.463, 5. Pete McLeod (CAN) 1:05.464, 6. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 1:05.926, 7. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 1:05.965, 8. Michael Goulian (USA) 1:06.406, 9. Peter Podlunšek (SLO) 1:06.993, 10. Mikaël Brageot (FRA) 1:07.211, 11. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 1:07.732, 12. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 1:07.754, 13. François Le Vot (FRA) 1:08.793, 14. Cristian Bolton (CHI) 1:09.270