ABU DHABI | Yoshi Muroya won the opening round of the Red Bull Air Race in Abu Dhabi today by the narrowest of margins, taking the win by just 0.003 seconds.
The 2017 world champion performed spectacularly all week, excelling in Free Practice, flying fastest in Qualifying and taking the victory on Race Day. Under the new format, this earned him the maximum 28 points available over the weekend.
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Martin Sonka, the reigning world champion, showed his credentials by coming second, finishing a split second behind his Japanese rival. Michael Goulian finished third both in the race and in Qualifying, meaning he now sits just one point behind Sonka.
Nicolas Ivanoff was both the luckiest and unluckiest pilot of the day. After posting the slowest time of the field in Qualifying, he lost his Round of 14 heat against Yoshi Muroya, but made it through to the next round as the fastest loser. He then beat Kirby Chambliss in the Round of 8, but could not race in the Final 4 as his plane’s engine refused to start. The Frenchman, who won in Abu Dhabi in 2016, had to settle for fourth place.
The pilots battled challenging winds on race day which made gates 7 and 14 much harder than in the Free Practice and Qualifying sessions. Half of pilots picked up penalties in the Round of 8, including Kirby Chambliss, who was caught for climbing in gate 10 and ended with the slowest time of the round. Mika Brageot, who finished in seventh, incurred two penalties; one for insufficient smoke and one for exceeding 11G.
Almost two-thirds of the field picked up penalties in the Round of 14, including Cristian Bolton, who opted for a Safety Climb-Out when he exceeded 12G after gate 6 and was then unable to get his wings level for gate 7. As a result, the Chilean finished in 14th place.
Later, Matt Hall picked up a two-second Incorrect Level penalty at gate 7, which should have given Britain’s Ben Murphy a clear passage to the Round of 8. Instead, the British pilot exceeded 11G and then hit the outside pylon at gate 7. The combined four seconds of penalty knocked Murphy out of the round; he finished in 13th overall. He later said that an alternator failure had distracted him from what should have been an easy run.
Matthias Dolderer was another big name to bow out early. Visibly furious with himself for his Incorrect Level penalty at gate 14, the 2016 world champion ended the day in 11th place. Pete McLeod also had a frustrating week; his 9th place finish (caused by yet another penalty at gate 7) belied his fantastic runner-up performace in Qualifying. However, McLeod was not given the two points usually awarded to the Qualifying runner-up because he his magnito settings accidentally exceeded the regulations.
Muroya therefore starts the season with a spectacular six point lead over his closest rival, but Goulian and Sonka have proved that they are hungry to repeat last year’s success.
|Race finish||Pilot||Country||Race points||Final time||Penalties||Quali finish|
|12||Francois LE VOT||FRA||2||0:58.109||+2||9|
|1||Yoshi MUROYA||Team Falken||JPN||28||=|
|2||Martin SONKA||Red Bull Team Sonka||CZE||22||=|
|3||Michael GOULIAN||Team Goulian||USA||21||=|
|4||Nicolas IVANOFF||Team Hamilton||FRA||18||=|
|5||Matt HALL||Matt Hall Racing||AUS||14||=|
|6||Juan VELARDE||Team Velarde||ESP||13||=|
|7||Mika BRAGEOT||#11RACING Team Eyetime||FRA||12||=|
|8||Kirby CHAMBLISS||Team Chambliss||USA||11||=|
|9||Pete MCLEOD||Cashback World Racing||CAN||5||=|
|10||Petr KOPFSTEIN||Team Spielberg||CZE||4||=|
|11||Matthias DOLDERER||Matthias Dolderer Racing||GER||3||=|
|12||Francois LE VOT||FLV Racing Team 12||FRA||2||=|
|13||Ben MURPHY||The Blades Racing Team||GBR||1||=|
|14||Cristian BOLTON||Cristian Bolton Racing||CHI||0||=|