Yoshihide Muroya of Japan and his Red Bull Air Race World Championship rivals spent part of Thursday afternoon searching for inspiration at the 800-year-old Chiba Shrine ahead of the weekend’s racing.
Muroya, the first Japanese pilot ever to compete in the world’s fastest motorsport series, proudly led the other pilots to a special blessing ceremony that called for a successful race here at one of the country’s most beautiful shrines led by two Shinto priests. The pilots were also treated to a prayer written especially for them and emerged from the brilliant orange shrine buildings.
“It was an honor that this private ceremony was conducted just for us,” said Muroya, who has been the center of enormous media attention in Chiba. “This shrine is dedicated to the god of the Polar Star, so the priest prayed to the god to help us find our way, not just in this race, but in all the many travels we do – and in life.” Muroya later held up an “Ofuda”, or a charm, with the other pilots in front of the shrine that was presented to him by the priests.
The ceremony at the shrine, with its winding paths leading through flourishing and breathtaking Japanese landscaping, gave the pilots a chance to reflect before the training and racing begins in earnest at the second race of the 2015 season. A passing typhoon named “Noul” earlier in the week scrambled the race preparations. A sell-out crowd of a record-breaking 120,000 spectators is expected this weekend at the first-ever Red Bull Air Race in Eastern Asia.
Britain’s Paul Bonhomme leads the Red Bull Air Race World Championship standings with his victory in the season open in Abu Dhabi, with Australia’s Matt Hall in second, Pete McLeod of Canada in third, Austria’s Hannes Arch in fourth, and defending World Champion Nigel Lamb of Great Britain in fifth. Muroya is in sixth place and looking to get a spot on the podium on Sunday after acquiring a new airplane.