Japan has had a long wait for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship to arrive in the country. Now it’s happened at last, and the Japanese fans made the weekend an unforgettable experience for everyone involved. One downside for the locals – no win for their own flying ace.
Fans of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship have had to wait three months for the next round of the competition. The propellers of these ultra-manoeuvrable light aircraft have remained silent since February and the season opener in Abu Dhabi. The waiting came to an end on the weekend of 16th/17th May when the Red Bull Air Race made its first ever visit to Japan. 60,000 spectators were determined not to miss the action at Chiba, a city 40 kilometres southeast of Tokyo. Much of the merchandise was sold out on the first day of the event, and the fans were not going to let a light drizzle spoil the party atmosphere.
Contributing to the excitement was local favourite Yoshihide Muroya. Much to the delight of the home crowd, he posted a fastest time of 50.779 seconds to make it through to the Round of 14, easily seeing off the challenge of Martin Sonka from the Czech Republic. Several of the high-profile flyers were despatched in the first knockout round, including former world champions Peter Besenyei and Hannes Arch, as well as Pete McLeod, placed third in the season opener in Abu Dhabi but now going home without even a single championship point.
“I am very happy with the result. It was a great race in difficult conditions.”
Muroya then went out in the Round of 8 where he was bested by Paul Bonhomme, winner in Abu Dhabi. The British pilot was joined by Australia’s Matt Hall, Frenchman Nicolas Ivanoff and Germany’s Matthias Dolderer in the Final 4. The flyers staged a tight contest in which Bonhomme prevailed with a time of 51.502 seconds to claim his second win of the season. Hall finished as runner-up by a deficit of 0.382 seconds, reprising his result from Abu Dhabi. Completing the podium party was Dolderer who finished ahead of Ivanoff despite incurring a two-second penalty. That was because the Frenchman unluckily exceeded the maximum permissible g-force in the Final 4 and the judges struck out his time. The Top Three contestants each received a handcrafted trophy weighing only 100 grams and cast in gold, silver and bronze respectively.
“I am very happy with the result. It was a great race in difficult conditions,” said a delighted Bonhomme. Hall was less enamoured with the outcome: “I can’t complain about second place, but a win surely has to come some time soon. That was not my best run in the Final 4.” Local hero Muroya thanked the huge crowd: “It was incredible to fly competitively in my home country in front of such a record crowd. I hope I can experience that again.”
This time, the fans do not have such a long wait for the next race. The third round of the 2015 season is scheduled for the weekend of 30th/31st May in Rovinj (Croatia). DHL as Official Logistics Partner now has the task of transporting the aircraft and all the auxiliary equipment from East Asia to the Adriatic in good time for the event.