Checking in with the champ

What's the offseason like when you've just won your first Red Bull Air Race World Championship? We checked in with Japan's Yoshihide Muroya, who captured the crown with a brilliant performance at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October, to find out.

Yoshi, now that you've had some time to absorb your accomplishment, how does it feel to be the Red Bull Air Race World Champion?
YM: I don't feel anything has changed, but obviously it feels good to have achieved something that I set out to do quite a few years ago. And I can see that people recognise this change from competitor to champion.

You and Team Falken had to overcome quite a few challenges on the way to the championship, from a stiff penalty at the season opener to raceplane problems in Porto that could have derailed your season completely. Ultimately, why do you think you were able to succeed despite all the obstacles that came up in 2017?
YM: I think a key factor was that we had aimed at a championship win since 2014, all the time working to improve our total package of flying skill, team management, tactics, sponsors and the improvements in our new plane.

Once you did clinch that goal with your amazing track record in the Final 4 at the season finale, what was the reception like when you got home to Japan?
YM: Mainly the media is still celebrating! So there have been a lot of commitments. I am also meeting fans at air shows nearly every week, and it's very nice to be able to thank them for their support. In the coming weeks I also look forward to seeing some of the young students who love to learn about aviation. I always enjoy that.

Speaking of the weeks ahead, with the 2018 calendar kicking off in Abu Dhabi on 2-3 February, the off-season is speeding by. How have you and the team been preparing the raceplane for next year?
YM: Our plane is in California, and it has been being worked on from the day after Indy. We are working on a modification programme that we planned out in mid-season 2017. Obviously time is short, and we are fighting the deadline for completion and flight testing.

And what's in store for the rest of the offseason?
YM: The team and I will be working very hard up until Christmas to be ready for the 2018 season. Then I will have time for a holiday in the new year.

So what is your ongoing strategy? Are you one of those competitors who thinks that if things are going well, it's best not to change things? Or do you believe it's always necessary to change?
YM: We want to keep on winning championships, so we cannot stand still. We will continue to try to make improvements – otherwise the others will catch up and pass.

That said, your primary goals for 2018 are...?

YM: In 2017, we won four races and scored no points in two others. Our objective is to score well in all races and take a second championship!

You can see Muroya go up against his 13 rivals in Abu Dhabi on 02-03 February - get your tickets HERE!

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