Chiba (Japan) – Crowds of 70,000 people packed Makuhari Beach over the weekend to see their hero Muroya race at home for the first time since winning the World Championship in 2017, but their delight turned to dismay. Charging for a third home win, the Japanese pilot exceeded maximum G in his opening run, advancing his head-to-head rival Hall, who was fresh off a victory in Cannes, France. In the Final Four, Goulian, Sonka, Canada’s Pete McLeod and Hall wrestled for the victory. Goulian laid down a time of 56.695, while Sonka and then McLeod both pushed to two-second penalties. Hall’s clean run under pressure nipped the American by just 0.319s.

“We like to think it’s getting back to where we were a couple of years ago,” said Hall, who was twice runner-up in the World Championship before dialing in a new raceplane during the 2017 season. “This one feels even better than the last race, and we are proud of our team – it’s a team sport and there wasn’t a single error from anyone. I hope this race will be part of the calendar forever. The fan culture in Japan is amazing, so enthusiastic. I knocked their guy out and they still embrace me.”

Budapest, Hungary is next, as the raceplanes return to the sport’s spiritual home. And at the midpoint of the season, the all-time classic stop will be a free-for-all. With the exception of Canada’s McLeod in seventh overall, every pilot in the field of 14 is tied in the points with at least one other contender – most notably Hall and Goulian leading the way with 36 points each. Muroya and Sonka, who finished one-two in the 2017 Championship, continue their epic rivalry at 19 points each; 2016 World Champion Matthias Dolderer of Germany and the surprising young Frenchman Mika Brageot each have 15, and so it goes right down the line. A single breakout performance is sure to shake up the standings.

Don’t miss the most hard-fought race yet: Tickets for the 2018 Red Bull Air Race World Championship –including the fourth stop of the eight-race season in Budapest – are on sale now. For more information on tickets and all the latest, visit www.redbullairrace.com

Results Master Class, Chiba 2018: 1. Matt Hall (AUS), 2. Michael Goulian (USA), 3. Martin Sonka (CZE), 4. Pete McLeod (CAN), 5. Mika Brageot (FRA), 6. François Le Vot (FRA), 7. Juan Velarde (ESP), 8. Matthias Dolderer (GER), 9. Petr Kopfstein (CZE), 10. Cristian Bolton (CHI), 11. Ben Murphy (GBR), 12. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA), 13. Kirby Chambliss (USA), 14. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN)

World Championship standings after three races: 1. Matt Hall (AUS) 36 points, 2. Michael Goulian (USA) 36 pts, 3. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 19 pts, 4. Martin Sonka (CZE) 19 pts, 5. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 15 pts, 6. Mika Brageot (FRA) 15 pts, 7. Pete McLeod (CAN) 11 pts, 8. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 9 pts, 9. François Le Vot (FRA) 9 pts, 10. Juan Velarde (ESP) 9 pts, 11. Ben Murphy (GBR) 6 pts, 12. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 6 pts, 13. Cristian Bolton (CHI) 1 pt, 14. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 1 pt