Yoshihide Muroya relishing title defence ahead of new Red Bull Air Race Championship

The Japanese is one of 14 pilots who will compete in the Master Class category in the season-opener in Abu Dhabi.

Denzil Pinto 2018/01/31

Defending champion Yoshihide Muroya is not placing any pressure on himself and expects stern competition from his rivals when the new Red Bull Air Race Championship begins in Abu Dhabi on Friday.

Muroya, 45, will go into the season-opener at Abu Dhabi Corniche as the man to beat after entering the record books last year to become the first Japanese and Asian world champion.

He faces a tough task following in the footsteps of retired star Paul Bonhomme, who is the only man to defend his title in successive seasons. However, Muroya insists he is relishing the challenge  in a competition which will see pilots race at high speeds of up to 370kph with forces up to 10G.

“There’s no pressure on me just because I’m the world champion,” he said. “It’s a new season and it will be challenging every race that we compete in. Every single year and race, the pilots get faster so it will not be easy. We went faster than last year and it’s important to keep focused and stick to our plan and I think it will be a good and exciting season.

“Everybody is asking me how to defend a championship but it’s 2018 and 2017 is history. I cannot think about that now. There is a new set of teams and modifications.”

While 13 other Master Class pilots are standing in his way of glory, Muroya and the rest of the field will have to adhere to new rule changes for the upcoming campaign.

Among the main change is allowing pilots to continue racing rather than earning a ‘did not finish’ result if they exceed the G-Force limit in any of their two laps.

Muroya, whose worst finish was 13th in both Abu Dhabi and Russia last year, believes the new rules will make the competition more challenging than previous years.

“It’s a new season and with the new rules, it will be challenging in every race,” he said, who finished ahead of 2017 Abu Dhabi winner by four points in the overall standings.

“Every year the championship is getting tighter and tigher. Last year we won the title on the very last flight and it will be harder this time. We expect it to be challenging again.”

In 2017, Muroya was on top of the podium in four of the eight races with his highlight victory coming last June when he reigned supreme on his home turf in Chiba.

“Since I’ve won the championship, I’ve become more recognisable and have people coming to me for autographs and pictures,” said Muroya.

“It’s nice to make Japan proud and hope to do that again in the future.”

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Abu Dhabi Japan Paul Bonhomme Red Bull Air Race Yoshide Muroya