The event marked the first race of the season, which will end in Saudi Arabia in November.
Japan’s Yoshihide Muroya emerged victorious from the first events of the 2019 Red Bull Air Race Season in Abu Dhabi, beating long-time rival and defending world champion Martin Sonka by 0.003 seconds.
The race – which was witnessed by an estimated 50,000 spectators over the course of the weekend – saw 14 pilots compete at speeds of up to 370 km/h, enduring forces of up to 12 G while navigating through a race track made up of inflated pylons.
The opening round of 14 on Saturday saw numerous errors and penalties incurred, which organisers attributed to a significant shift in wind direction since Friday’s qualifying round.
Great Britain’s Ben Murphy, for example, failed to make the Round of 8 after receiving four seconds of penalty time including a pylon hit, allowing last season runner-up Matt Hall to advance for the 50th time in his career.
In the end, the third place finisher, American Michael Goulian, came just one second behind Sonka in the race, the first of eight reasons that will end with the final event in Saudi Arabia in November.
As the winner of both the qualifying event and the race, Muroya made the most of a new points system introduced this year which awards points to the top finishers in qualifying, earning 3 points to go along with the 25 he won on race day for 28 overall.
Sonka, for his part, ended the event with 22 points compared to 21 for Goulian.
“It was really close today, but our teamwork worked out,” Muroya said after the victory. “The wind has shifted 180 degrees…so it was very, very difficult to get through Gate 7 today. I think maybe everyone was struggling there. It’s important to win to maximise the points and our flights were very consistent with Free Practice 1 to the final, so we’re really happy about that.”
The Red Bull Air Race season will continue in June at a yet undisclosed location in Europe, followed by Kazan, Russia in July, followed by events in Japan, Asia, Indianapolis and Saudi Arabia.