Without too much delay, we were straight into the top 12 round with Matt Hall starting out in 4th place. This round begins with the slower times from the previous round going through first. With Sonta & Maclean already out, Muroya and Rakhmanin were always going to find it a struggle. Penalties and flying errors began to show through as these pilots and the other back markers tried their best to get the most out their machines and themselves.
As the quicker pilots came in for their runs, we saw the times - and the mistakes - fall sharply away. The French pilot, Nicholas Ivanov showed some surprising consistency with his run and no doubt had the top runner worried for a short time, and when the Americans, Chamblis & Goulian saddled up for their runs, we all expected big things.
The biggest applause came for Aussie pilot Matt Hall and his super smooth and consistent style was both a pleasure and a thrill to watch. His good friend Nigel Lamb was excellent as well, and his new aircraft is sporting some huge blended winglets. Hannes Arch was awesome with his speed & skill, as always, but the abssolute star if this round was Paul Bonhomme. Despite his smoke system failing, costing him a one second penalty, he still managed to blitz the field with a time of 1:26. At the end of the top 12, Hall was in 4th place. Leaving the Perth round were Rakhmanin, Muroya, Besenyei, and surprisingly, Mike Goulian.
Straight into the Super 8 round and it was Mcleoad of Canada leading things off with a fast and smooth run, follwed by Dolderer of Germany with a nasty couple of pylon hits to put him straight out of contention. Then it was Matt Halls turn and he didn't disappoint, giving the rest of the pilots a lot to think about with a blistering 1:27.65 . From this point on, he was the guy the rest had to get ahead of to make the final four.
This was achieved after a mail biting session that had the Perth crowd on the edge of their seats as Lamb, then Bonhomme, and finally Hannes Arch all bettered Halls' time.
After a short break, the final four round got under way. Hall went out first and shot through at 1:25.51, Lamb was next, but lost a lot ofenergy through his run and came in slower. This left the two champions, Arch & Bonhomme. Bonhomme has been unstoppable for over a year now, and everyone expected nothing less this time around, but were all surprised to see him come in behind Hall with 1:26.82 This left it wide open for Arch, and with an incredible run of 1:26.03, he claimed victory for the Perth round in 2010.
For the hugely supportive Australian crowd, it didn't matter that he came second, they were jumping out of their seats with excitement to see Matt Hall up on the podium. The applause was loud and long as he made his way up, and lasted for a long time after the ceremony was over. For this former RAAF fighter pilot, the decision to pursue this career path must now be sitting very comfortably.
The next round ofthe Red Bull Air Race takes place in Rio De Janeiro on May 8th & 9th.
This has been the first time out for me as a journalist, and despite not doing all that I'd set out to do this time around, the experience I've gained here has taught me a lot and I will approach the next big aviation event far more the wiser for having been here.
It has been exciting; it's been fun; it been exhausting, and I'd be happy to do it all again next weekend!