The home hero needed luck as well as supreme skill to accomplish his first race win in five seasons of competition in a “breathtakingly close battle” with second-place finisher Martin Šonka of the Czech Republic and Kirby Chambliss of the United States, who placed third, said the Red Bull Air Race in a news release announcing the results of the third race on the eight-stop annual tour.
Muroya’s time of 1:04.992 barely beat Sonka’s 1:05.097.
“It feels very special. We were very close to Martin in the times, but the fans pushed us into the win,” Muroya said. “I’ve been flying for 25 years and this is my first win, so it’s taken a long time. It's a big, big moment.”
The result in the Chiba race—the first in which the three top finishers each achieved podium positions—“breaks the World Championship wide open with five races still to go,” said the race organization.
The World Championship Standings are now: 1. Matthias Dolderer (Germany), 30 points; 2. Kirby Chambliss (United States), 20 points; 3. Nicolas Ivanoff (France), 19 points; 4. Yoshihide Muroya (Japan), 18 points; 5. Hannes Arch (Austria), 17 points; 6. Nigel Lamb (Great Britain), 16 points; 7. Martin Šonka (Czech Republic), 14 points; 8. Matt Hall (Australia), 12 points; 9. Pete McLeod (Canada), 11 points; 10. François Le Vot (France), 10 points; 11. Juan Velarde (Spain), 7 points; 12. Michael Goulian (United States), 6 points; 13. Peter Podlunšek (Slovenia), 3 points; 14. Petr Kopfstein (Czech Republic), 2 points.
Chile’s Cristian Bolton was victorious in the Challenger Class and American Kevin Coleman soared to the top of the Challenger leader board with his third consecutive second-place finish, the race organization said.