The Red Bull Air Race returns to its Austrian roots for the sixth race of the season as it lands in the stunning town of Wiener Neustadt on 15-16 September. Set in the Lower Austrian Alps near the capital city of Vienna, Wiener Neustadt is the perfect spot for the Red Bull Air Race to return to the country where on the 28 June, 15 years ago the series began! With the crisp mountain air making it perfect for racing it has the potential to be the race of the season. Follow the Red Bull Air Race here!
145kts through the Start Gate, and Chiang is blasting his way around the track. Having already raced yesterday - and won- the Challenger pilot from Hong Kong is well-versed in his lines. Despite being first out onto the track, he's laying down a pretty good time already... smooth and clean, and a good turn in the VTMs. We're seeing no mistakes so far... this is very competent flying despite a slight change in the conditions from yesterday.
He's through the Finish Gate with no penalties, and he's gone even quicker than his race-winning time yesterday. A great start for Chiang.
Next up, it's Baptiste Vignes, who cam ethird in yesterday's race.
Vignes bolts from the standing start, climbs rapidly and he's into the Start Gate at 144ts... despite a slightly slower start than Chiang he's 0.3s faster in the first split... but losing time around the mid part of the racetrack, maybe taking some slightly wider lines there. VTMs are good and so far there are no penalties. Clean, level flying but the splits have gone red and the pace is now off by 0.5s - that's a significant margin and as Vignes heads through the Finish Gate, he hasn't been able to make up the pace. There'll be no race win for the French pilot today, but he could still take a podium place with that performance.
And to tie up the first half the Challenger Cup II race, it's Italy's Dario Costa.
It's his first time racing this weekend, so he's playing catch up with this Challenger counterparts. Nevertheless it's a great start from Costa, who goes quickly through the Start Gate at 145kts... first splits are in the green with 0.2s advantage, but as he levels off through the Air Gates we're seeing the splits dropping into the red, first 0.9s, looks like he's losing time through the VTM and hasn't quite found the same lines as Chiang, who seems to be leading by a significant margin now.
He's well off the pace in the second lap - they're all flying the same model of raceplane so there must be something that's not adding up with Costa's strategy here as he loses another second in the final split. He finished up +2.1s ff Chiang's pace and currently sits in third, with three pilots left to fly.
Standing start and she goes into the Start Gate at 143kts... that's a good start at the first split and we're seeing 0.225s lead, but she's losing speed in the VTM, good flying here, but she needs to pick up the pace and tidy up her second VTM. Chiang has really set a high benchmark here as Astles nails her second VTM, but the damage has already been done and she can't make up the difference now.
She takes her place into third so far, 0.7s off Chiang's top time.
Poland's Luke Czepiela has managed to get into Chiang's ballpark in free practice, and he's capable of going really quickly if he can keep his cool. A great start on the first split, despite a slower start, and a little bit of bumpy flying but the speed is looking good. The VTM again is costing this pilot time, as he loses 0.2s.... Czepiela chasing down Chiang in his second lap and it's REALLY close... he can't quite take the top spot from Chiang but Czepiela slips into second place.
Ryfa powers into the climb to the start gate, a very slow start compared to his competitors with 142kts... tidy, smart flying in the first section of the racetrack but VERY high in the first VTM and an early dip out of the manoeuvre... and he's lost 1.4s despite going green in the first splits... he really held back in that VTM and it's costing him so much now as he cannot find any kind of pace in the track. Ryfa goes into last place - that's a huge blow for the Swedish pilot who was looking at a massive advantage in the Challenger Cup rankings.
Le Vot into the track to kick off Heat 1... he's into the track at 149kts... that's a good start and he's looking good through that chicane... first VTM and Le Vot pushing hard through the halfway point. Second lap and the buzzer goes... +2s at Gate 6 for incorrect level flying... all Matt Hall really needs to do now is fly clean and penalty-free and surely he's through. An otherwise great performance from Le Vot... but will Hall pull of an error-free run?
Matt Hall into the track faster than Le Vot... he's in at 151kts and he's already ahead of Le Vot in the first split... a really substantial 2.5s lead and lots of pace and pinpoint precision from the Australian pilot. He's looking REALLY comfortable out there. Smooth, clean and it doesn't look like an error is coming Hall's way with this performance. Green light all the way in the splits... smooth through the VTM, smooth to the Finish Gate. Penalty free and a great start for Hall who flies his second quickest time all week.
Brageot goes hard into the Start Gate at 149kts... he's setting the benchmark for this heat as the first out, and the young French pilot is looking to go better than his 11th place finish time in Qualifying. Careful flying but the racing lines are looking a little bit out of sync right now... still it's clean and error free so far. The pace is lacking, a good couple of seconds off Matt Hall's heat-winning time, but all that matters is that McLeod can't match Brageot's pace right now.
Clean and error free, but a little lacking in pace, Brageot is done in his R14... will it be enough?
McLeod up next... he's got the advantage of knowing what his target it. He's in the air faster through the Start Gate at 150kts... a great start in that first section as the splits come in green with 0.461s ahead of the pace. McLeod straight into Gate 6 out of the VTM, he's looking comfortable and disciplined and knows that he's got to go cleanly through the track to take this heat win from brageot. Smooth, smooth, smooth, but flying a little on the edge there as he passes through the Finish Gate. A great, competitive time under his belt too.