The weekend of 26-27 May will witness the fourth Red Bull Air Race to take place in Japan. Chiba is fast becoming a firm favourite on the calendar with both the pilots and fans excited about returning to the Land of the Rising Sun.
This year will be extra special for Yoshihide Muroya who will be flying in front of his home fans as the World Champion, and the fans will be hoping he can make it three home wins in a row – something no other pilot has done before.
But before we look ahead at what could happen over Tokyo Bay in a few weeks, let's look back at what's happened in the three years previously...
The excitement was building for months before the Red Bull Air Race arrived in Japan. The event was sold out and more than 120,000 fans lined the shore to watch the inaugural race in Chiba – with the vast majority there to see Muroya and hoping for him to take the win.
Due to bad weather Free Practice was shortened to just one session, which was taken by Hannes Arch. Paul Bonhomme, who was leading the championship at the time, was second and Matthias Dolderer third. Muroya found himself down in 10th.
Nicolas Ivanoff was quickest in Qualifying with Dolderer in second, Bonhomme third and Matt Hall fourth – this set up some interesting heats for the Round of 14.
Muroya flew against Martin Sonka and swept by him quite easily as the Czech pilot picked up a two second penalty for flying the incorrect level. Bonhomme knocked out Arch and Hall beat Nigel Lamb, who made it through as the fastest loser.
Muroya was to face Bonhomme in the Round of 8 and it seemed to put pressure on the pilot who exceeded the G-limit and was given a DNF, putting an end to his home race.
Bonhomme went on to take the win, with Matt Hall second and Matthias Dolderer third.
When the Air Race returned Paul Bonhomme had retired from racing and there was a chance for a new pilot to claim the title for the 2016 season. Chiba was the third race of the 2016 season and as the pilots arrived in Japan, Dolderer was sitting at the top of the standings after finishing second and first in the opening two races.
The Round of 14 saw Muroya up against Pete McLeod and when he collected a penalty for insufficient smoke he looked to be out early, but McLeod picked up a DNF for exceeding the G-limit giving Muroya a pass to the Round of 8. Dolderer beat Petr Kopfstein and was to face Muroya in the Round of 8.
Muroya was given another pass when Dolderer pushed too hard and also received a DNF for exceeding the G-Limit.
Nigel Lamb, Martin Sonka and Kirby Chambliss were to face Muroya in the Final 4. Lamb flew first and set a time of 1:05.734. Muroya was second into the track and laid down a 1:04.992, 0.742s faster than Lamb. Chambliss and Sonka were unable to beat that time, handing Muroya the first win of his career and made 90,000 Japanese fans – who were watching – very happy.
Coming into last year's race in Chiba, Martin Sonka was sitting on top of the championship after two races, five points ahead of Dolderer and six ahead of Muroya. However, Muroya arrived in Chiba on the back of winning in San Diego.
It was to be Muroya's weekend – and season. He was up against Kopfstein in the Round of 14 who he beat by just 0.007s (Kopfstein went through as the fastest loser). Muroya then knocked out Hall in the Round of 8 to face off against Kopfstein, Dolderer and Sonka.
Muroya flew first and set a time of 55.288s. Kopfstein flew second and was unable to beat Muroya's time. Dolderer was looking good in the track, ahead of Muroya in the split times, until he hit a pylon at Gate 11 and collected a three second penalty. Sonka was last to fly and again, had a strong net time that would give him the win, but he also collected a penalty for incorrect level flying through Gate 4.
Muroya claimed the win for the second time in Japan. He then went on to take the World Championship at the final race of the season.
Tickets are still available for the upcoming race taking place on 26-27 May, get yours HERE.