Hello and welcome to the start of Round 3 from Chiba, Japan!
We've had an interesting day here as we were faced with challenging conditions in the racetrack, which caused the cancellation of Free Practice.
"The current weather conditions give us no choice but to cancel Friday’s Free Practice sessions. The strength and direction of the wind means that the pilots can’t take off at the Race Airport. We tried throughout the afternoon to find take off slots, however we were only able to accommodate the calibration flight. Safety for the Red Bull Air Race is of the upmost priority,” says Race Director Jim DiMatteo.
But while the teams were disappointed to not be airborne, they made good use of the time on the ground for fine tuning...
We're expecting the weather to be fine for flying tomorrow and will have Free Practice in the morning before Qualifying, scheduled for 1600 local time here in Japan.
We are warming up here in Chiba as the sun shines over Tokyo Bay! It's set to be a thrilling race here in Japan as we move into the third round of 2017...
Last year 90,000 Japanese fans watched the race – and to their delight witnessed home hero Yoshi Muroya take his maiden win!
Yesterday almost 1000 fans of all ages visited the Race Airport to meet the teams and pilots... showing that they are our most dedicated and passionate supporters. We love being in Japan and can't wait to see how the next two days will unfold...
There's no doubt who is the star of the show here in Japan... Yoshi Muroya is adored by the local fans and they are here in their droves to support him
Hot off a win at round 2 in San Diego in April, Muroya is sitting in 3rd place overall just one point behind defending World Champion Matthias Dolderer...
Since making his debut in 2009, Muroya has always shown great promise but struggled to deliver consistent performances in the track
It seems that he may have cracked it in the last round, saying that he was following his plan and aiming for consistency. His plan worked and if he takes a second home win this weekend he could stand a strong chance of taking his first title in 2017
But he's not the only pilot who has it all to play for in round 3...
Martin Sonka of the Czech Republic is sitting at the top of the standings after taking the first victory of 2017 in Abu Dhabi earlier this year. He followed that up with a further points haul in San Diego, where he finished in 5th place...
Sonka has slowly climbed the ranks over the past few seasons, showing that he has the determination and skill to earn himself the title. The former military jet pilot is cool and calm under pressure, calculated in his approach and the one to watch in 2017
Hot on his heels is German pilot and defending World Champion Matthias Dolderer... five points behind after two races, he's in the hunt for back to back titles
QUALIFYING SCHEDULE (LOCAL TIME):
1215 FREE PRACTICE 3
1410 FREE PRACTICE 4
1600 MASTER CLASS QUALIFYING
Let's take a look at this year's racetrack in Chiba. It's been tipped as one that requires serious mental preparation as it's a technical and challenging track due to some interesting variations between laps...
This is the third year the pilots will race above Makuhari Beach and it has become to be known as a sprint circuit for its long thin track with two high-G turns.
The 2017 track has 13 gates and every one is passed twice, apart from Gate 7, which is the second high-G turn. There is only one single-pylon gate before the first Vertical Turn Manoeuvre. As there is no chicane before the first VTM, the raceplane will not have scrubbed off much speed before entering the high-G turn. Therefore, there is a very high risk of over-G at Gate 3.
The pilots have two options when it comes to passing Gate 3.Option one is for the pilot to head straight towards Gate 3. This is very risky and tricky (especially after the VTM), as the angle creates very little space between the pylons for the pilot to fly through, but the quicker option. For the second option the pilot could fly a set up turn before Gate 3. This will reduce the risk of a pylon hit, but it is a slower option.
Chiba is unique as the pilots fly a different race line in the track. Here the sequence of the gates changes during the course. When Gate 4 is passed the first time, the pilots have to fly straight towards the chicane. When the gate is passed again, the pilots have to fly towards the finish gate with a right turn. The pilots need to keep a sharp mind at this point...
First flights in the track have now concluded and we will post a full story shortly, but in the meantime here are the quick results:
OFFICIAL FREE PRACTICE 3 RESULTS:
LE VOT 57.424
There were plenty of penalty seconds accrued as the pilots tested their theoretical race lines for the first time...
American Mike Goulian was the only competitor to make it through cleanly on each of his runs, although he wasn't particularly fast so might need to experiment further in the next session