Magnificent Muroya takes double Abu Dhabi victory

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.

Photo: Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool

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.

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.

Photo: Naim Chidiac / Red Bull Content Pool

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.

Photo: Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool

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.

Photo: Andreas Schaad / Red Bull Content Pool

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 RESULTS

Race finish Pilot Country Race points Final time Penalties Quali finish
1 Yoshi MUROYA USA 25 0:53.780 1
2 Martin SONKA CZE 22 0:53.783 4
3 Michael GOULIAN USA 20 0:54.009 3
4 Nicolas IVANOFF FRA 18 DNS N/A 14
5 Matt HALL AUS 14 0:54.760 8
6 Juan VELARDE ESP 13 0:55.221 +2 6
7 Mika BRAGEOT FRA 12 0:56.263 +2 5
8 Kirby CHAMBLISS USA 11 0:56.341 +2 13
9 Pete MCLEOD CAN 5 0:55.196 +2 2
10 Petr KOPFSTEIN CZE 4 0:55.816 +2 12
11 Matthias DOLDERER GER 3 0:56.443 +2 10
12 Francois LE VOT FRA 2 0:58.109 +2 9
13 Ben MURPHY GBR 1 0:58.638 +4 7
14 Cristian BOLTON CHI 0 DNF +3 11

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

Position Pilot Team Country Total points Change
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 =