Red Bull Air Race 2016 – Chiba (Japan)

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Master Class head to head knock out heats 2016 Chiba, Japan

Red Bull Air Race 2016 – Chiba (Japan)

The Red Bull Air Race World Championship returns once again to Japan, in the sprawling suburban metropolis of Chiba City. Ranked as one of the 12 major cities in Japan, Chiba City has a population of approximately 1 million people, making up a fifth of Chiba Prefecture’s population. When you hear of Chiba you think of Narita Airport or Tokyo Disney Resort or maybe more historically its samurai and warrior heritage. Pretty well renowned for its steel industry, this bustling city is more recently home to the growing field of international information services, biotechnology and medical science. Just a short 30 minute train ride from central Tokyo, but it’s far from a concrete jungle… known as the ‘City of Flowers’, Chiba City is blessed with an abundance of nature, with traditional Japanese gardens and parks peppering the landscape and creating a wonderful contrast between old and new.

It is here that Chiba City and the Red Bull Air Race strike a chord. The Red Bull Air Race’s use of traditional aviation design combined with intuitive, state-of-the-art technology makes for a beautiful synergy of modern day advancements and golden age finesse.

Chiba Course Explained

Day 1 Qualifying Continued on Page 2

Day 1: Qualifying

Japanese fans witnessed home favorite Yoshi Muroya battle for a podium place in its debut in Chiba in 2015, and  have been looking forward to the return of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship where the local hero will once again race and try for victory here at Chiba in 2016.

The start of the day was pretty fair… bit overcast and breezy in the morning, but things started to turn for the poor as the pilots were grounded and sitting around waiting to see if the planes would even leave the hangars.

Red Bull Air Race

Due to high seas and rough conditions at the Red Bull Air Race in Chiba, Japan on Saturday, the Race Committee was forced to cancel the Qualifying sessions for the Master Class and the Challenger Class. The racetrack over water was no longer safely operational, with waves up to 2.5 meters forcing an immediate end to all operations for the track and standby rescue teams before the afternoon’s qualifying sessions were scheduled to begin. Race Director Jim DiMatteo came out to make an official statement telling everyone “The current water conditions give us no choice but to cancel the Qualifying flying session’s for Saturday. Safety is of the utmost priority for the Red Bull Air Race, the timeline for Race Day on Sunday has not changed.”

“The current water conditions give us no choice but to cancel the Qualifying flying session’s for Saturday. Safety is of the utmost priority for the Red Bull Air Race, the timeline for Race Day on Sunday has not changed.”

Qualifying Day Conditions and Announcement

Qualifying determines the starting order for the Master Class head-to-heads in the Round of 14, and DiMatteo went on to explain that in accordance with the rules, with no Qualifying result in Chiba the pairings will be based on current World Championship standings.

As a result, local Japanese hero Yoshihide Muroya will take on Canada’s Pete McLeod, while overall leader Matthias Dolderer of Germany will face off with Petr Kopfstein of the Czech Republic. The field is tight, with a mere three points separating the pilots in seventh through third place, and the entire lineup is keen to keep Dolderer from building an insurmountable lead.

Despite Saturday’s weather, 40,000 motorsport fans turned out at Makuhari Beach and were able to enjoy a variety ground-based family entertainment including freestyle motocross demonstrations, as well as Free Practice flying sessions held in the morning.

Race Day and Weekend tickets remain valid for 5 June 2016, and even more spectators are expected for Sunday’s excitement, with the racing to begin midday with the Challenger Class, followed by the Master Class showdown.

Day 2 Race Continued on Page 3

Day 2: Race Day

This was the third leg of the 2016 Red Bull Air Race tour, and is the only one of the whole tour held over open water – and it suffered for it on Saturday, the first scheduled race day, when strong wind and waves led to the cancellation of the time trial qualifications.

After two practice sessions on Friday 3 June Muroya came first among 14 pilots, beating Matthias Dolderer (DE) into second by a fraction of a second. Muroya completed his run in 1:05:059. Dolderer flew the course in 1:05:074.

Muroya was very happy to get off to such a good start in front of his home crowd. “I was flying back and I didn’t even realize I was the top in Free Practice 2, it’s good to know!” he said after the race.

He added: “I think the track is a good setup and it felt like we were just cruising around, so tomorrow we need to do the same cruise… All the pilots are good and I hope the fans will come and watch!”

Earlier in the day Australian Matt Hall won the first practice session, setting the fastest time of the day at 1:04:072. Only Martin Sonka (CZ) showing any real competitive edge against Hall, in second place with 1:05.615.

Hall said he and his team were happy with how the day had gone. “We often fly well in the first session and we did that in Free Practice 1. We had the lines prepared and they worked out.”

“In Free Practice 2 I was slightly more conservative but only 0.5s off the pace. The best news is my back feels good. I was nervous coming here because I wasn’t sure how it would be, but I feel really confident after today.”

Because all the racing was done on Sunday instead, the pilots to use their experience and what little time on the course they could get under their belts in the two free practice sessions.

But on Sunday it was Muroya’s time of 1:04.992 that was a display of “precision and perfection even when flying under pressure” organizers said.

Muroya used the home field advantage to give him that extra spiritual boost and claimed that his fans’ support gave him an extra half a second of time in the racetrack. “The fans pushed us into the win,” he said afterwards. “It feels very special. We prepared well and the team has been working really hard.”

In the Challenger Cup – the smaller second tier (or B Class pilots) of racing where pilots learn the skill and art of air racing before graduating to the Master Class – Chile’s Cristian Bolton kept the USA’s Kevin Coleman at bay for a decisive win.

The Chilean military pilot held his nerve with a quick and clean error-free run, ultimately posting the fastest time of 1:15.747 on the coastal one-lap track.

The win scored him 10 points, which puts him fourth on the overall leaderboard after three competitions – Abu Dhabi, Austria and Japan. The USA’s Coleman is first, with a total of 24 points – he has consistently come second in all three races, scoring eight points each race.

For the Master Class, Nigel Lamb(GB) was first out of the start gate in the final four, who was looking for a 1:04 time on the track. However, Lamb ultimately couldn’t live up to his own expectations and posted a quick 1:05.734.

But Muroya was second to fly in the track, and his blistering pace put him in first place.

Two other pilots flew, but were unable to match Muroya’s 1:04.992, meaning he took the win.

“We were very close to Martin in the times, but the fans pushed us into the win,” Muroya said afterward. “I’ve been flying for 25 years and this is my first win, so it’s taken a long time, but it feels very special – it’s a big, big moment for me and the team.”

He added: “To celebrate, I might go to a noodle restaurant and have some beers!”

The podium saw Muroya, Martin Sonka (CZ) and Kirby Chambliss (US) in 1, 2, 3 spots.

The result means Muroya is now in fourth position in the series overall. Germany’s Mathias Dolderer is first, with Chambliss in second and France’s Nicolas Ivanoff in third.

Japan’s Yoshihide Muroya took his first career victory in front of 50,000 fans at his home race in Chiba, Japan at the third leg of the Red Bull Air Race 2016 on 5 June 2016.

Yoshi Muroya (JPN) Run in the Best 4

Link to photos & gallery: Red Bull Air Race 2016 (Chiba)

All Videos: Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool