Expect a frenzy of “Yoshi mania” when the Red Bull Air Race comes to Chiba, Japan for the fourth year in a row on 26-27 May, as Yoshihide Muroya flies in his first home race since being crowned World Champion.
While the country’s superfans go wild, Muroya’s opponents will go all-out to deny him a third consecutive home win.
No pilot in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship is more closely associated with a racetrack than Muroya with Chiba: Over 300,000 fans have turned out to watch him speed over Tokyo Bay in past seasons, and he is the only contender in the 2018 lineup to have won a race at the port city.
In 2016, the energy of the Chiba crowd boosted Muroya to his first career victory, and after his repeat triumph there last year, a third win would make him the first pilot in the history of the sport to earn a hat-trick in his own country.
Muroya is also looking for another first in Chiba: his maiden win of the 2018 season. While the pilot from Fukushima has been steady so far, he has yet to dominate in his defense of the title. Japan’s hero finds himself in third overall, five points behind leader Michael Goulian of the USA and just two ticks from Australian Matt Hall. The trio behind Muroya on the leaderboard – Matthias Dolderer (GER), Martin Šonka (CZE) and Kirby Chambliss (USA) – all have claimed overall podium positions in the past, including World Championships for the German and the American.
After Chiba, the race teams will already be staring down the midpoint of the calendar. With no clear frontrunner, and the 14-pilot field so spine-tinglingly tight that results came down to thousandths of a second at the recent stop in France, the race in Chiba could be a free-for-all.
“The result in Chiba at the end of May? Impossible to say: Yoshi Muroya will be keen to avenge his uncharacteristic fourth at the previous stop in Cannes. We have resurgence in Hall and Dolderer. Goulian will be keen to get back to winning ways – all that before you consider the strength and promise in pilots like Mika Brageot [FRA], Juan Velarde [ESP], Pete McLeod [CAN] and Martin Šonka,” says retired three-time World Champion Paul Bonhomme, who is the only pilot besides Muroya to have won a race in Chiba. “Looking to bounce back after an opening-round exit in France, Chambliss will lead the rest of the pack, who are chasing fast… and then you have the possibility of the Tokyo Bay wind and associated penalties. Excitement is guaranteed!”
There is no race quite like Chiba: Tickets for the Red Bull Air Race 2018 – including seats among the superfans in Japan – are on sale now. For all the latest news and information, visit www.redbullairrace.com
RED BULL AIR RACE CALENDAR 2018
2-3 February: Abu Dhabi, UAE
20-22 April: Cannes, France
26-27 May: Chiba, Japan
23-24 June: Budapest, Hungary
25-26 August: Kazan, Russia
September: Wiener Neustadt, Austria
6-7 October: Indianapolis, USA