Michael Goulian had the perfect race plan this week and it paid dividends today in the race. He collected his second career win in the Abu Dhabi track after a nine year wait. Here's what he and the other Master Class pilots thought about the first race of 2018...
1st Michael Goulian
"It's been a long time coming to get that second win, but it feels great. I was very fast all week and very consistent. I was excited for Qualifying, excited for the race, but I knew I couldn't get too excited. So we worked on just putting one foot in front of the other and make small improvements. I had a feeling we would do well today, but I didn't want to put the cart in front of the horse. We want to be consistent now and we want to win races, but our aim is make the Final 4, get the points and be in the challenge for the World Championship."
2nd Yoshihide Muroya
"This is my first ever second place so I'm happy. We were quite quick all the way through so we didn't change anything. This is a very good starting point for the new championship. The team and I are satisfied with the result so it's a good start to the season."
3rd Martin Sonka
"It was an incredibly tough race for us. We started well, but then we slowed down and we had some issues with our system, so I can't be really happy because I didn't perform as well as I could have. I'm happy with third because I've seen how close everyone was here in Abu Dhabi."
4th Kirby Chambliss
"It's not really where I wanted to be; you know we're in the Final 4 and I felt like we had a chance at a shot at it and maybe I played to too safe, maybe we should've gone all out and next time I'll try that. I could've taken a bit more of a risk as I finished fourth anyway so it wouldn't have made a difference if I'd not flown clean trying to go faster."
5th Matt Hall
"The track slowed down. I heard Mike's time and it was slow so I thought I'd have to push in the track. I went as hard as I could. For me I flew a good time, but Mike has been faster than me all week. It's not a bad start. Once again we've got a whole new setup and for a first race with a new setup it's not a bad result. I'm happy with it compared to where we were in the middle of this week."
6th Ben Murphy
"As experiences go, it's been a pretty good one. We've had a fantastic week actually. To get through to the Round of 8 was a real achievement. The plan was to just fly clean, which we did. And I'm happy with how I performed. The team has been brilliant and I couldn't have done it without them. They took all the pressure off me and allowed me to just think about flying."
7th François Le Vot
"I'm following my path and I'm happy with my flights today. In fact I've been happy with the whole week – even with the penalties I'm happy as I'm following the gameplan. My plan for the season is to push a little bit harder, approach the limits and keeping in mind that a penalty will impede you going any further. But I think I have to collect some penalties so I can find the limits."
8th Mika Brageot
"The week has been amazing and we have a raceplane ready for the season. We did well in Quali, we were relaxed with cool heads. The plan was to go into the Round of 8 and put everything on the line to get into the Final 4. That didn't happen today, but we flew good lines. Pushing hard is good because you know when you find the limit and it can work."
9th Petr Kopfstein
"Today we just didn't like the line we had selected, also the plane wasn't set up properly and the mixture setting was too lean. But we didn't want to make a mistake as the track is really fast and I was concerned bout the Gs. We've been fighting with the mixture setting all week and we just haven't found it. Sometimes it was too lean. But lesson learned and we will now focus on the rest of the season."
10th Nicolas Ivanoff
"Fortunately I was able to use a plane and actually race, so I need to thank the organisation for letting me fly. The Edge used in the Challenger Class is a stock plane and it's obviously not set up for me. Maybe it was four seconds slower than my usual plane. My goal was to not be more than two seconds slower than Mike, and I wasn't. But I was slow, but it's not too bad and congratulations to Mike."
11th Juan Velarde
"Ben flew faster than me, I'm happy for him in his first race in the Master Class and I have to congratulate him on a good job. This is a very fast and powerful track. We have long, straight lines and the plane keeps accelerating and it's simple to over-G. I don't know how many there has been, but it's a lot."
12th Cristian Bolton
"I hit a pylon. It's a bad result, it's my mistake and not how we should start the season. This is why the Air Race is so tough – a small mistake can change the result right away. Let's see what Cannes will bring for me and my team."
13th Matthias Dolderer
"It's super frustrating after a good Qualifying, but the positive thing is we know the plane is fast and I'm fast, the problem is the over-Gs. This track is made for over-Gs and it's not what we need, maybe we need different tracks or have to go slower. For at least two more races I will be motivated, but if I don't do well then I will lose that motivation. Now we've lost 15 points, we need to be on the podium at every race if we're going to become World Champions."
14th Pete McLeod
"I don't have much to say about today. I thought I was well prepared and I wanted to go out there and fly fast. I think the race is a poor design and I'm starting to suspect the data is off. In the end no points, I'm not happy and that's natural. We invest a lot in terms of energy, time, training and emotion and when you get a result like this it isn't racing. Next time!"