Yoshihide “Yoshi” Muroya is a Japanese aviation hero and a Red Bull Air Race World Champion. In 2017 Muroya, the only pilot from Japan in the history of the sport, took the battle for the crown to the final round of the final race. It was a new major motorsport title not only for Japan, but for all of Asia.
Muroya claimed third place in Japan’s glider championship before earning his pilot’s licence in the USA, and on the way to becoming Japan’s top aerobatics pilot, he participated in the Advanced World Aerobatic Championships, the World Aerobatic Championships and the European Championships. A popular airshow pilot, Muroya works to build interest in aviation throughout Japan and beyond, and he is a goodwill ambassador for his home of Fukushima.
Since joining the Red Bull Air Race in 2009, Muroya has introduced innovations ranging from pre-race Zazen meditation to a variety of raceplane modifications. He earned his first race podium in his third season, 2014, and two more in 2015, but it was the pilot’s maiden win at his 2016 home race in Chiba that proved his true potential to take the title.
In 2017, race wins at San Diego and Chiba helped put Muroya in the overall lead at the season’s midpoint. But after raceplane issues, he was four points off the leader heading into the finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There, Muroya let nothing distract him. His winning time in the Final 4 was even faster than simulators had predicted was possible, and fans in Japan went wild.
In 2018 the Japanese team made improvements to their raceplane and reduced their Race Day penalties, yet the season was a rollercoaster. Nonetheless, Muroya’s fast flying produced two podiums and a top five finish overall. In the ever more competitive field, they will need persistence and determination to regain the World Championship in 2019 – exactly the qualities that gave them the trophy the first time.
“I’m in the spotlight, but there are thousands of people in the background who are working as hard as I am, and that makes us win. So thanks to my team, thanks to my family, and thanks to friends and fans,” said Muroya. “The Red Bull Air Race may be tighter than ever in 2019, but we will not stand still. We’ll do everything we can to finish on top.”