Yoshihide Muroya of Japan flew a “perfect run” and beat a track record to cap off a historic year with a come-from-behind win to claim the 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Indianapolis Oct 15.
Breaking ahead of frontrunner Martin Sonka, who had opened the final weekend’s racing with a four-point advantage, Muroya brought his individual race-win total to four of the championship’s eight races in 2017—making history by becoming the first Red Bull Air Race world champion from Asia, with 74 points overall for the season. His final race time was 1:03:026.
Sonka finished second overall, with 70 points, after a fourth-place finish in the weather-delayed Final 4 race behind Matthew Dolderer of Germany (2.52 seconds behind Muroya and seventh place for the year) and Juan Velarde of Spain (eighth overall).
Claiming third place for the year’s racing was Canadian Pete McLeod, with 56 points.
American Kirby Chambliss, a two-time champion whose prospects were braced by two race wins in a strong comeback year, awaited the Final 4 race results with 52 points and a statistical outside chance to take his third championship. But that probability, one of numerous what-if scenarios analyzed by Red Bull, depended on poor to disastrous showings by Muroya, Sonka, and McLeod, none of which panned out.
When the world championship trophy was presented, “Muroya was sprayed with champagne by Sonka and McLeod, who stood on the overall podium for the first time themselves,” said the racing organization in a news release.
“This is an amazing chapter for motorsports to win a race here,” Muroya said. “It was the tightest championship ever with the four of us close right up until the end. We were behind at the start of the season, so it was the long way and the hard way, but we made it.”
He added, “I thought the timing was broken when I saw my time in the Final 4, and before the race our computer would have said it wasn’t possible, so something was pushing me quite a lot. That was the fans, my family and my team, so thanks to them for making it happen.”
The Red Bull Air Race noted that Muroya’s “clinching Japan’s first World Championship at Indianapolis Motor Speedway also marked a remarkable new milestone in the history of the century-old racetrack, where just this year Takuma Sato—who was on site all weekend to cheer Muroya—became the first Japanese race car driver to win the famed Indianapolis 500.”
The spectators for the dramatic conclusion of the 2017 racing included more than 500 members of the general aviation community who attended the popular AOPA Brickyard Bash, held following qualifying runs Oct. 14 at the Indianapolis Raceway Panasonic Pagoda and Yard of Bricks. The bash featured food and drinks and live music from the award-winning Chris Weaver Band. AOPA also set up an Engagement Zone pavilion offering activities for all ages overlooking Turn 4.
The complete final standings of the 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championship were: Yoshihide Muroya (Japan) 74 points, Martin Sonka (Czech Republic) 70 points, Pete McLeod (Canada) 56 points, Kirby Chambliss (United States) 53 points, Petr Kopfstein (Czech Republic) 43 points, Matt Hall (Australia) 40 points, Matthias Dolderer (Germany) 39 points, Juan Velarde (Spain) 37 points, Michael Goulian (United States) 28 points, Mikaël Brageot (France) 24 points, Nicolas Ivanoff (France) 16 points, Peter Podlunšek (Slovenia) 14 points, Cristian Bolton (Chile) 9 points, and François Le Vot (France) 9 points.