Yoshihide Muroya launches into Air Racing season opener with top practice time

Courtesy of Red Bull Air Race Media Service Team

The 14 pilots of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship ended their off-season on Thursday with two initial Free Practice sessions for the season opener in Abu Dhabi, UAE on 8-9 February 2019. After challenges last season, Japan’s Yoshihide “Yoshi” Muroya was back to the form that won him the 2017 World Championship, taking the top time of the day. But right behind him was reigning titleholder Martin Šonka of the Czech Republic, renewing a battle of the titans in the fresh season.

Abu Dhabi, UAE

– Šonka picked up right where he left off at the 2018 finale, throwing down the gauntlet with a winning performance in Free Practice 1.In his very first run of the session, the Czech hero clinched the top of the timesheet at 53.680s, which was 0.015s faster than the time posted by American Michael Goulian to win the Abu Dhabi race last season. The 2016 World Champion Matthias Dolderer took second in Free Practice 1 with 53.738, while in third Muroya clocked 53.786. The top three were separated by barely a tenth of a second. 

– In Free Practice 2, both Kirby Chambliss and Mika Brageot managed to break Šonka’s mark from the initial session, but it was Muroya who soared to the head of the timesheet with 53.222. Šonka improved on his earlier time, but was ultimately 0.299s behind Muroya for second, with Chambliss third and Brageot fourth. The entire top half of the 14 pilot field was separated by less than a second.

– The weather was perfect for the sessions ahead of the 12th Red Bull Air Race season opener in Abu Dhabi, with a backdrop of the city’s dramatic skyline and cloudless blue skies. The pilots navigate a 4-km racetrack of 25-metre-high pylons over the Arabian Gulf, right in front of crowds on the Abu Dhabi Corniche.

– Among the other favorites for the new season are the pilots who finished second and third on the 2018 World Championship  podium, Matt Hall (AUS) and Michael Goulian (USA), who had relatively conservative results on Thursday.

– In 2018 the Abu Dhabi podium was: first place, Goulian; second place, Muroya; third place, Chambliss (USA). Dolderer took pole position with the fastest time in Qualifying. 

– Šonka has seen tremendous highs and lows in Abu Dhabi. He captured the first race win of his career over the Corniche in 2017, then last year he incurred a technical disqualification at the season opener, putting him on the back foot for what would eventually be a successful title campaign.

– Anticipation is high for Abu Dhabi Qualifying on Friday, 8 February 2019, because a new rule will award World Championship points for the top three pilots, making Qualifying Day more crucial than ever.

– Race Day is Saturday, 9 February, when the three rounds of action will set the tone for the remainder of the eight-race season.


Yoshihide Muroya (JPN): “It felt good, normal. Like 2017. It was because I’m flying good, the plane feels good and we prepared well. We’re finding simple solutions, and that works for now. Maybe when we look at things tonight we can learn a little a little bit more from today, shave off another two-tenths or so and go a little bit ahead of where we are so far.”

For ticket information and all the latest news on the Red Bull Air Race, visit www.redbullairrace.com

Results Master Class Free Practice 1, Abu Dhabi 2019:  1. Martin Šonka (CZE) 53.680, 2. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 53.738,3. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN)53.786, 4. Juan Velarde (ESP) 54.100, 5. Michael Goulian (USA) 54.245, 6. Matt Hall (AUS) 54.403, 7. Ben Murphy (GBR) 54.713,8. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 54.840,9. Mika Brageot (FRA) 54.909,10. Cristian Bolton (CHI) 55.424, 11. Pete McLeod (CAN) 56.232, 12. François Le Vot (FRA) 56.253,13. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 56.572,14. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 57.668 

Results Master Class Free Practice 2, Abu Dhabi 2019:  1. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 53.222,  2. Martin Šonka (CZE) 53.521, 3. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 53.552, 4.Mika Brageot (FRA) 53.591, 5. Matt Hall (AUS) 53.850, 6.Cristian Bolton (CHI) 54.014,7. François Le Vot (FRA) 54.124, 8. Pete McLeod (CAN) 54.381, 9. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 54.472, 10. Michael Goulian (USA) 54.542,11. Ben Murphy (GBR) 54.575,12. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 54.664,13. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 55.648, 14. Juan Velarde (ESP), 56.112

Red Bull Air Race 2019 Calendar
8-9 February: Abu Dhabi, UAE
TBA: Europe
15-16 June: Kazan, Russia
13-14 July: Budapest, Hungary
7-8 September: Chiba, Japan
TBA: Asia
19-20 October: Indianapolis, USA
8-9 November: Saudi Arabia

About Red Bull Air Race 
The Red Bull Air Race World Championship is an aerial motorsport series that demands a combination of speed, precision and skill. Using the fastest, most agile, high performance race planes, pilots compete in iconic locations over water and land. The high speed, low altitude and extreme manoeuvrability required make it only accessible to the world’s most exceptional pilots.

Flying just metres from the ground, 14 Master Class pilots race against the clock whilst reaching speeds of up to 370 km/h, requiring a combination of precision and skill unmatched in the world of aviation. Pilots must be in peak physical condition as they endure forces up to 12G while navigating the technical racetracks made up of air-filled pylons. 

The Air Race was developed in 2003 and is accredited by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), with more than 90 races completed across five continents. As the most advanced aerial challenge in existence, competing in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship is the highest accolade for elite pilots. 

A Challenger Cup feeder series was introduced in 2014 with the goal of facilitating the development of the unique skills required for the Master Class for the next generation of pilots.

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