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Australian Hall, German Berger Fly to Top of Red Bull Air Race Practice at IMS

Australian Matt Hall led a tight field of the world’s best aerobatic pilots Friday after two Master Class practice sessions for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Florian Berger of Germany dominated practice in the Challenger Class, the last training ground before the premier Master Class.

Fourteen Master Class and six Challenger Class pilots are flying this weekend on a course above the IMS oval infield. Planes race against the clock at low altitude while exceeding 200 mph, navigating a low-level slalom track marked by 82-foot-high, air-filled pylons called Air Gates. Each timed run is 2.5 laps after a standing start, navigating a total of 19 Air Gates.

Pilots turn as quickly and efficiently as possible, pulling up to 10 G’s in some turns before flying toward the next gate. Penalties are assessed for hitting the Air Gates, for speed and altitude violations or for not flying in the proper formation through certain Air Gates. The quickest pilot against the clock in each round wins.

Hall built on the momentum produced from a season-best second-place finish at the last event, Sept. 17 at Lausitz, Germany. He flew to the top time today at IMS at 1 minute, 4.055 seconds.

Reigning World Champion Matthias Dolderer of Germany, who won the inaugural event at IMS last October, was second at 1:04.173 with his run that led the opening practice.

Master Class championship leader Martin Sonka of the Czech Republic was third overall at 1:04.354. Nicolas Ivanoff of France was fourth at 1:04.854, while Canadian Pete McLeod was fifth at 1:04.880. Just eight-tenths of a second separated the top five pilots.

Sonka leads Japanese pilot Yoshihide Muroya by four points, 63-59, entering the season finale at IMS. McLeod is third in the standings with 56 points. American Kirby Chambliss is the only other pilot mathematically eligible to win the World Championship, fourth with 52 points.

It was a tough day over sunny skies at IMS for the other two championship contenders besides Sonka and McLeod.

Muroya was 10th overall at 1:05.913, but that final time included a two-second penalty for incorrect passing of an Air Gate and incorrect level flying. So Muroya would have been the leader and the only pilot in the 1:03 range with a clean run.

Texas native Chambliss, who lives in Tucson, Arizona, was 11th overall at 1:06.543.

American Michael Goulian, from Plymouth, Massachusetts, ended up eighth at 1:05.601.

In the Challenger Class, championship leader Berger ruled both practice sessions. His best overall time of 1:15.073 came in the second practice. Berger showed tremendous consistency throughout the day, leading the first practice at 1:15.109.

Berger leads Swedish pilot Daniel Ryfa, 36-34, in the race for the Challenger Cup awarded to the season champion.

American Kevin Coleman, from Coushatta, Louisiana, was second quickest at 1:17.726, nearly 2.7 seconds behind Berger. Ryfa was third quickest overall at 1:18.178, his best run from the first practice.

Aerial activity Saturday at IMS starts at 10:45 a.m. with the final practice for the Challenger Class, followed by the last practice for the Master Class at 1:20 p.m. Challenger Class qualifying is set for 3:05 p.m., followed by Master Class qualifying at 4:05 p.m.

Visit IMS.com to purchase tickets for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship and for more information on the event weekend. Children 15 and under receive free General Admission when accompanied by an adult General Admission ticket holder.

An interactive Fan Guide for the event also is available at www.ims.com/RBARFanGuide.

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