July 2017 saw the Red Bull Air Race arrive in Russia for the first time in the sport's history, and it was a pivotal point in the championship.
As the teams arrived in Russia, Yoshihide Muroya was sitting on the top of the standings with 39 points, Martin Sonka was just two behind, Pete McLeod in third and Kirby Chambliss, off the back of his win in Budapest, was fourth.
Day one above the Kazanka River saw the opening Free Practice sessions. They were taken by the championship leaders with Sonka topping FP1 with a time of 57.248s. Muroya topped the second timesheet of the day with a 56.972s run.
On the Saturday of race week the times were getting quicker and quicker. The final Free Practice session saw Matt Hall finish with a 55.853s – more than a second faster than the track record, that was set the day before. Pete McLeod was second and new Master Class pilot Mikael Brageot was third.
Kazan 2017 race highlights
McLeod took Qualifying in Kazan – his third Qualifying win in a row. He was even quicker than Hall with a time of 54.562s in FP3. These times were impressive and Kazan was to break all records in terms of pylon hits. 68 were to fall in total over the week. Sonka was second in Qualifying and Nicolas Ivanoff third.
Due to the weather conditions and pylon hits there were some interesting line ups for the Round of 14. Heat 1 saw Juan Velarde up against Michel Goulian. Velarde won the heat, with Goulian out after hitting a pylon. However, his time was still good enough to make it through as the fastest loser; although the wait whilst watching six other heats to see him claim his place must've been agonising.
Chambliss was against Matthias Dolderer in Heat 2. Both pilots clipped pylons, but Chambliss had done enough to go through. Championship leader Muroya was up against Hall. Hall was another pilot to hit a pylon and Muroya looked to be through, until he also hit a pylon and collected two seconds extra for an incorrect level, putting an end to his race. Sonka also missed out on progressing, so it was Chambliss and McLeod's chance to push ahead in the standings.
The Round of 8 was a thriller as well and saw a North American domination with Kirby Chambliss, Michael Goulian and Pete McLeod all going through. They were joined by Petr Kopfstein.
Kazan 2017 Race Day gallery
Chambliss flew first in the Final 4 and set the second fastest time of the day with a 58.378s. It was a perfect lap and set the mark for the others to beat. After Chambliss was the second American, Michael Goulian, who also flew cleanly. He was 1.272s slower than Chambliss. But flying clean is so important and his time was good enough for him to finish third. Meaning he picked up his first podium since his win in Budapest eight years ago.
Petr Kopfstein, who was second in Chiba, took to the track and was looking great. On his second lap he was trying to get his first win, but took too much of a risk and clipped a pylon at Gate 10 and Gate 11, which saw him fourth.
Pete McLeod was last to fly and was smooth and exceptionally quick. He picked up a penalty early on, but this track suits his style and was able to claw back a lot of time. McLeod was 0.747s behind Chambliss, but it was enough for him to finish second.
The result saw Kirby Chambliss sitting on the top of the World Championship standings for the first time since he won the title in 2006. But he wasn't in the lead by much. Two points separated him, Yoshihide Muroya, Martin Sonka and Pete McLeod.
Kazan 2017 Master Class final results