Hometown hero Yoshihide Muroya moved to the top of the leader board on June 4 with a victory in Chiba, Japan, on the third stop of the eight-race 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championship.
Muroya’s victory, witnessed by about 90,000 air racing fans, was his second of the season, as well as a repeat of his 2016 win in Chiba, as he flew his Edge 540 V3 race airplane to a final four time of 55.288.
With the win closely following his victory in San Diego in April, Muroya—the first pilot from Asia to compete in the world championship—moved ahead of Sonka on the leader board for the first time in his career. Next the competition moves to Budapest, Hungary, July 1 and 2, followed by its debut in Russia July 22 and 23 in Kazan.
“We are really happy to win again in Chiba, and I want to thank everybody here in Japan for their support. I had some luck, but in the end some of the other pilots made mistakes,” said Muroya, who is credited with being instrumental in raising awareness of the sport in the Asia region. “We have another five races, so we need to continue as we are doing. Our team setup is quite good, and we must stick with the same tactics, stay with the plan and go forward as normal to win more races.”
American pilot and AOPA ambassador Michael Goulian placed fifth in Chiba, with fellow American Kirby Chambliss in eighth place.
Although Muroya and Sonka are tied in points after Muroya’s “double repeat” win, they are far from alone in the hunt for the title. Defending World Champion Matthias Dolderer of Germany is seven points behind in third place, with Kopfstein six points behind him, and a large group of pilots clustered in the middle.
“For many, Budapest will be make-or-break,” said the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in announcing the Chiba results.