CHIBA, Japan – More than 70,000 people packed Makuhari Beach over Memorial Day weekend to see their hero Yoshihide Muroya race at home for the first time since winning the Red Bull Race Air Race World Championship in 2017, but their delight turned to dismay.
Charging for a third home win, the Japanese pilot exceeded maximum G in his opening run, advancing his head-to-head rival Matt Hall, who was fresh off a victory in Cannes, France.
In the Final Four, the U.S.’s Michael Goulian, the Czech Republic’s Martin Sonka, Canada’s Pete McLeod, and Hall wrestled for the victory. Goulian laid down a time of 56.695, while Sonka and then McLeod both pushed to two-second penalties. Hall’s clean run under pressure nipped Goulian by just 0.319 seconds.
“We like to think it’s getting back to where we were a couple of years ago,” said Hall, who was twice runner-up in the World Championship before dialing in a new raceplane during the 2017 season. “This one feels even better than the last race, and we are proud of our team – it’s a team sport and there wasn’t a single error from anyone. I hope this race will be part of the calendar forever. The fan culture in Japan is amazing, so enthusiastic. I knocked their guy out and they still embrace me.”
Budapest, Hungary, is next for the races. At the midpoint of the season — with the exception of Canada’s Pete McLeod in seventh overall — every pilot in the field of 14 is tied in the points with at least one other contender – most notably Hall and Goulian leading the way with 36 points each.
Muroya and Sonka, who finished one-two in the 2017 Championship, continue their rivalry at 19 points each, while 2016 World Champion Matthias Dolderer of Germany and the surprising young Frenchman Mika Brageot each have 15.
A single breakout performance is sure to shake up the standings, Red Bull officials note.