A total of 35,000 fans lined the shores of Tokyo Bay as the Red Bull Air Race World Championship returned to Chiba, Japan for the third consecutive season with Qualifying on Saturday. Pete McLeod of Canada claimed pole position for the race on Sunday, with Germany, the Czech Republic, and a home favorite from Japan right in the mix.
In the land of the rising sun, Canada’s Pete McLeod rose to the top of Qualifying on June 3 to clinch pole position at the Red Bull Air Race in Chiba, Japan. In front of 35,000 fans at the only World Championship stop in Eastern Asia, McLeod threw down the gauntlet with a time of 54.609 and had to wait anxiously as the top pilots on the overall leaderboard tried to topple him.
Reigning World Champion Matthias Dolderer of Germany came closest, a breathtaking 0.047 behind the Canadian for second place on the day, with Martin Šonka (CZE) and Japanese hero Yoshihide Muroya (main pix) having to settle for the third and fourth best times.
Because six different pilots have traded places on the podium across the first two races of the season, Chiba is critical: for some, it’s a chance to finally solidify leadership status, and for others, it’s a moment to seize momentum if they want to keep their World Championship hopes alive. Every one of the top four qualifiers has stood on a season podium so far, but at sixth overall McLeod is looking to leap toward Šonka, Dolderer and Muroya, who hold the top three positions in the standings. The showdown is set.
“The track is more compressed than last year, which I like, plus I saw the wind was down a little bit, so I went more aggressive to take advantage of that,” said McLeod, who last topped Qualifying at Las Vegas, USA in 2014 and finished that weekend on the top step of the podium. “It’s great to be out there and have a fast time in Qualifying, but ultimately, all that matters is who I go up against tomorrow.”
With pole position, McLeod’s head-to-head in Sunday’s opening Round of 14 the pilot with the slowest time in Qualifying, François Le Vot (FRA), while Dolderer will face Chile’s Cristian Bolton, Šonka will meet Mikaël Brageot (FRA), and Muroya will lock horns with Petr Kopfstein (CZE).
McLeod also claimed his first-ever DHL Fastest Lap Award. At each stop on the calendar, the DHL Fastest Lap Award goes to the contender who records the fastest single lap among all of the two-lap Qualifying runs. At the end of the season, the pilot with the most awards across the eight races will be honored with the DHL Fastest Lap trophy. Currently McLeod, Dolderer and American Michael Goulian are tied with one award each.
Join the Japanese superfans on beautiful Makuhari Beach! Tickets for the 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championship are on sale now – including Race Day in Chiba on Sunday, 4 June 2017. For more information on tickets and all the latest, visit www.redbullairrace.com
Results Master Class Qualifying, Chiba 2017:
1. Pete McLeod (CAN) 54.609, 2. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 54.656, 3. Martin Šonka (CZE) 54.928, 4. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 54.933, 5. Matt Hall (AUS) 55.010, 6. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 55.226, 7. Michael Goulian (USA) 55.539, 8. Peter Podlunšek (SLO) 55.605, 9. Juan Velarde (ESP) 55.632, 10. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 55.791, 11. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 55.954, 12. Mikaël Brageot (FRA) 56.169, 13. Cristian Bolton (CHI) 56.365, 14. François Le Vot (FRA) 57.116