Both Americans vying for the 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championship suffered setbacks in Germany, while a resurgent Yoshihide Muroya closed to within striking distance of points leader Martin Sonka heading into the final race Oct. 14 and 15 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Kirby Chambliss, who broke a long drought this year with race wins in Budapest, Hungary, and Kazan, Russia, matched up head-to-head against Muroya in the Round of 8 on Sept. 17, and despite a clean run of 51.398 seconds through the Lausitzring course, he was more than half a second slower than his rival from Japan, an eternity in Red Bull time. Chambliss’ time from the previous round (50.720) against Mikael Brageot would have beaten the eventual winner.
Fellow American Michael Goulian had arguably an even more frustrating day, collecting 4 seconds in penalties in his first head-to-head matchup against Canada’s Pete McLeod to end the day, and his racing weekend, with a 54.572-second run.
Goulian noted that without the penalties, he had the fastest time through the course, and he had approached his Round of 14 matchup with “100 percent aggression” knowing McLeod (third in the season standings) was flying fast.
“We came here to win this race, and we had more penalties because I was flying on the edge,” Goulian said. “That was the mantra—let's fly as hard as we can—and that's what we're going to do at Indianapolis."
That season finale Oct. 14 and 15 will be of particular interest to AOPA members, who can purchase tickets online at a discount, and enjoy live music and food, and meet race pilots at the AOPA Brickyard Bash on Oct. 14.
Chambliss, a two-time series champion, will need some help to repeat his previous title runs in Indianapolis. The Texan heads to Indianapolis in fourth place in the season standings, 11 points behind the leader, Sonka, in a series that awards 15 points for first place. Chambliss remains mathematically in contention, however, particularly given that in this series, an untimely gate penalty or two can push a pilot from the podium to dead last. (As Goulian can attest.)