It's an unusual achievement to win a race in your own country, with the extra media attention and all the fans there cheering you – it all adds pressure. To go and win in your own country twice, is a huge accomplishment. Only three pilots in the history of the Red Bull Air Race have won two or more races over home soil, until now!
Mike Mangold (Reno 2004, San Francisco 2005) and Kirby Chambliss (San Francisco 2006, Detroit 2008) have both won two races in their own country and Paul Bonhomme has won three (Longleat 2006 and Ascot twice, 2014, 15)! So when Yoshihide Muroya crossed the Start/Finish Gate in Chiba last Sunday he joined a very exclusive club, as he became only the fourth pilot to win twice in his own country.
Muroya is in the form of his life. He has won two out of the three races this season and is sitting joint top of the World Championship Standings. When he climbed out of his cockpit on Sunday a visibly emotional Muroya was quick to thank everyone for his success. "I'd like to thank my team, family, sponsors and organisers who bring the race to Japan," he said. Having a race in his own country means a lot to Muroya. "There is now a huge fan base in Japan. It has grown really quickly in the last three years. Let's say it adds big pressure, but it's also a big help. Having 90,000 people cheering for me is my tail wind."
Much like Paul Bonhomme has said in the past, racing at home isn't easy. Pilots just want to fly, and after the race, Muroya agreed with the British pilot. "It's not an easy situation for the pilot to race at home, we need to handle the media interest and the fans, it's part of my job, but it makes concentrating really difficult. However, I did it and I know how to do it, so we'll be good for next year," explained Muroya
Muroya now sits on top of the standings on 30 points. Martin Sonka also has 30, but is second due to only one win so far this season. Current World Champion Matthias Dolderer is seven points behind. The last time two pilots tied in the points at the top of the standings after three races was two years ago, Paul Bonhomme was top and Matt Hall was second, both with 25 points, with Bonhomme going on to claim his third title. Muroya isn't thinking that far ahead yet. "Of course there is another five races to go, so there are a lot of points left. We have just started this season but if we keep this pace, and are in the Final 4 in every race we will be in a good position at the end of the season and that's our aim, to be consistent at every race," explained Muroya.
"I believe I can be the World Champion, I will just continue to train and fly. We will not change our tactics. Maybe it will be this year, if not, we will continue next year. I'm not planning on stopping until I'm World Champion," he concluded.