Yoshihinde Muroyo
Winner Yoshihinde Muroyo (centre) with runners-up Martin Sonka (left) and Michael Goulian during the presentation. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Taming the capital’s skies, whistling over the turquoise waters of the corniche and gliding with precision through the course of pylons, 2017 world champion Yoshihide Muroya of Japan clinched the Red Bull Air Race’s Master Class season opener by the thinnest of margins of 0.003s in the history of the sport on Saturday.

Muroya, wowing the crowd who had turned up in large numbers at the waterfront with with a near perfect-run, crossed the finish Hamilton Gate in 53.780s and bagged 28 points.

Martin Sonka, the reigning world champion, also went all out into his final run and had the edge at the halfway point over Muroya but then dropped behind.

The Czech then regained lost ground but his final press saw him finish at 53.783s.

United States’ Michael Goulian completed the top three with a time of 54.009s.

I’m very happy. I’m at a loss for words because I just jumped out of the plane, but it’s a nice feeling to get some points at the start of the championship.

- Florian Berger, Challenger Cup winner

In the Challenger Cup, Germany’s Florian Bergér put up a fastest time of 57.728s to claim the top honours and is now tied with Sweden’s Daniel Ryfa with seven wins.

“I’m very happy. I’m at a loss for words because I just jumped out of the plane, but it’s a very nice feeling to get some points directly at the beginning of the championship. The conditions were nice, the aeroplane was running good and I was calm before the race — I think this is very important for me,” said an elated Berger after lifting the trophy.

Finishing second was Melanie Astles of France, 0.346s adrift. Melanie’s effort to end that podium drought wasn’t easy as she had one second penalty for an over-G. However, Melanie got her act together instantaneously to make emends in the rest of the track to accumulated eight points.

Kevin Coleman of the US completed his third podium in four races with a time of 58.411s.

“We had a great time today was thrilled with spectacle...it was a perfect weekend with my friends. I was looking forward to it and had watched it only on television before,” said Annas Mohammad, 15-year-old 12th standard student.

Mustafa Alam, who was with his family, said he was there by chance and a beach visit proved worthwhile.

“I came here for the waters but this was exciting to see these planes in action. I will followed the event closely here after. The kids also made the most,” said Alam, an entrepreneur.