Salzburg, Austria – Highlighting the 14-pilot lineup for the new season that kicks off in Abu Dhabi this February are all the top competitors from 2017. Chief among them, four pilots will be looking to reignite the rivalry that they took all the way to the season finale: first-time World Champion Yoshihide Muroya of Japan; the standouts in second and third overall, Martin Šonka of the Czech Republic and Pete McLeod of Canada; and former double titleholder Kirby Chambliss of the USA, who finished fourth. Meanwhile, 2016 World Champion Matthias Dolderer of Germany is determined to return to dominance, and two-time overall runner-up Matt Hall from Australia is back in top form after getting a new raceplane and team members up to speed.

Great Britain, however, has the best record in the World Championship. Across 10 previous seasons, 40 percent of the overall wins have been claimed by British pilots Paul Bonhomme (2009, 2010, 2015) and Nigel Lamb (2014). After the two legends retired, fans of the Union Jack were left without a home hero last year – but that will change the moment Murphy takes off.

“It’s a huge honor to be moving up to the Master Class in 2018. It will be great to have the British colors flying again and to follow in the footsteps of fellow British pilots Paul Bonhomme and Nigel Lamb,” says Murphy, who will spend the off-season securing a raceplane and assembling his Blades Racing Team. “Both have been an inspiration to me, and this move marks the next major step in the campaign to battle to the top and match their World Championship successes. Those are big shoes to fill, though!”

Bonhomme, who retired in 2015 and is now an expert analyst for the Red Bull Air Race live broadcast, notes, “It’s fantastic that the UK fans will have a pilot to follow in 2018. It’s a steep learning curve, however, and they should be patient for podiums and wins. Having said that, Ben has the skills, background and support available to do well.”

Including Murphy, the Challenger Class – a component of the Red Bull Air Race launched in 2014 to give talented aviators a chance to build their racing skills – has produced seven Master Class pilots, who quickly became forces to be reckoned with. Their technical innovations and podium finishes have made the World Championship even more exciting and unpredictable than ever.

“The World Championship in 2017 gave us a taste of things to come. No one dominated for the entire season, and I reckon we’ll see similar next year,” Bonhomme assesses. “Having said that, there are some very hungry pilots out there. The first two to three races will give us a clue to see if anyone can pull ahead.

Ben Murphy will make his Red Bull Air Race World Championship debut at the 11th consecutive season opener in Abu Dhabi, UAE on 2-3 February 2018.

2018 Master Class Pilots
Cristian Bolton (CHI)
Mikaël Brageot (FRA)
Kirby Chambliss (USA)
Matthias Dolderer (GER)
Michael Goulian (USA)
Matt Hall (AUS)
Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA)
Petr Kopfstein (CZE)
François Le Vot (FRA)
Pete McLeod (CAN)
Yoshihide Muroya (JPN)
Ben Murphy (GBR)
Martin Šonka (CZE)
Juan Velarde (ESP)

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2-3 February: Abu Dhabi, UAE
21-22 April: Cannes, France
26-27 May: Europe, location TBA
23-24 June: Budapest, Hungary
4-5 August: Asia, location TBA
25-26 August: Kazan, Russia
6-7 October: Indianapolis, USA
November: Asia, location TBA