American pilot Kirby Chambliss flew himself into first place in a rainy Russian rendition of the 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championship, and moved to the top of the overall standings with his second consecutive race victory. Canadian pilot Pete McLeod finished a close second, and American pilot Michael Goulian claimed the third spot on the podium.
The first-ever Red Bull race in Kazan, Russia, saw a significant shakeup in the season standings, as the previous leaders struggled to replicate their early-season success, setting up a thrilling finale. The “final three races of the year will be utterly unpredictable,” Red Bull said in a news release.
Not everyone was on the upside of a change in fortunes: Among those slipping in the standings were former front-runner Yoshihide Muroya of Japan, who had claimed consecutive victories in San Diego, California; and Chiba, Japan; in the second and third races of the year. Also losing ground were Martin Šonka of the Czech Republic and the reigning world champion, Matthias Dolderer of Germany.
“Weather that changed from glorious to gloomy didn’t deter 90,000 spectators from thrilling to the aerial action over the weekend, but the conditions seemed to have a profound effect on the race results, throwing the World Championship wide open with only three stops to go,” Red Bull Air Race organizers said.
Chambliss, with 40 points, holds a one-point lead over Muroya and Šonka’s 39 points each, “while the remarkably consistent McLeod is also poised to strike with 38,” said the announcement from Kazan.
Chambliss was optimistic that his two consecutive victories had put a difficult start to 2017 behind him.
“Clean flying will take you up there, and that’s what we’re trying to do—the whole team is helping me with the lines and the strategy and the raceplane,” said Chambliss, whose participation dates to the Red Bull Air Race’s beginnings in 2003. “The first part of year we struggled, but I look at it one race at a time, and if we keep winning races we’ll win the Championship. It’s been awesome in Russia.”
The racing continues Sept. 2 and 3 in Porto, Portugal.
AOPA is hosting a party at the final race of the season, and the event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is shaping up to be a bit more thrilling for the home crowd than it has in recent years. Click here to learn more about AOPA race-related activities and ticket discounts for members.