Abu Dhabi 2019: Round of 14 preview

It’s finally time to race again!

It feels like a lifetime ago since the 2018 season final in Fort Worth took place. But the first Race Day of 2019 is finally here. The times are close and it’s a clean sheet for all 14 Master Class pilots. Here’s how they will line up for the first Round of 14…

Heat 1
Matthias Dolderer v Mika Brageot

It was a tough day yesterday for Dolderer. The 2016 Champion is struggling with the new over-G rule and is frustrated with his Qualifying performance, but if anyone can go from bottom to top in the space of one flying session it’s Dolderer. Brageot has been flying exceptionally well and his fifth place in Qualifying has boosted his confidence even more, he’ll be looking to go through.

Heat 2
Cristian Bolton v Martin Sonka

This will be the first time these two have ever gone face to face. And it’s probably the worst time for Sonka to be facing Bolton as the Chilean pilot is in fine form and flew exceptionally quick yesterday. Sonka also has the added pressure of defending his title, but the ice-cool Czech ace can handle pressure and will just go and fly his race.

Heat 3
François Le Vot v Juan Velarde

These two are equally matched in terms of Master Class experience, they both joined the elite class in 2015 and have had similar levels of success. Le Vot has one podium to his name whereas Velarde has two, including a second place in Abu Dhabi. The two pilots have only gone head to head once before and it was here in the UAE. Velarde came out on top and it was when he was on his way to his podium. Will history be repeated or will Le Vot be the victor? It will be close either way.

Heat 4
Petr Kopfstein v Michael Goulian

With a new engine in his raceplane, Kopfstein won’t be able to push as hard as he would like, which will hinder his time. But if he flies clean, anything can happen. Goulian will be feeling the pressure as he returns to the site where he had a fantastic win, which kickstarted his best season yet. He collected a championship point in yesterday’s Qualifying, which would have eased the pressure slightly, but he’ll be looking for more today. If Goulian stays calm this should be his heat.

Heat 5
Matt Hall vs Ben Murphy

Australia against Britain: one of the oldest and fiercest rivalries in sport, which will make this a fantastic heat. Hall had raceplane issues yesterday which were being put right late last night, if the team has fixed the problem it will be a close battle. Murphy changed his winglets for Qualifying which improved his times, if he hasn’t tinkered any more he could go even faster. This is the first time these two have faced each other and one thing is for sure, these former military legends will be going all out for that Round of 8 berth.

Heat 6
Kirby Chambliss v Pete McLeod

Chambliss is another pilot struggling to cope with the new over-G rule, which like Dolderer is annoying him. But he has flown some quick times here so he’ll be one to watch. McLeod was second yesterday, but lost his points due to an infraction, so he’ll be determined to do well today. A determined and focused McLeod is a fast McLeod. This will be good!

Heat 7
Nicolas Ivanoff v Yoshihide Muroya

Even though Ivanoff was 14th in Qualifying, he was only 1.5s behind first place Muroya, which will make this an interesting heat. Ivanoff has had mixed results in Abu Dhabi, he won here in 2016, but last year damaged his raceplane and was unable to compete in it. Muroya too has had ups and downs here. He was second last year, but 13th in 2017, so this will be another interesting heat.

The Round of 14 begins at 14:00 local time. Watch every second right HERE.

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