Fort Worth, USA – Quite simply, the stakes could not be higher. After battling over land and sea across three continents since the season opener in February, only seven points separate the USA’s Michael Goulian, the Czech Republic’s Martin Sonka and Australia’s Matt Hall at the top of the overall standings. When the confetti rains down on the World Championship podium in Fort Worth, one of them will have clinched the title for the first time.
An impressive NASCAR and IndyCar track with tricky, turbulent winds, Texas Motor Speedway has already been home to Red Bull Air Race stops in 2014 and 2015. But hosting the season finale, which is also the 90th race in the history of the sport, boosts the excitement. It has been 11 years since an American (Mike Mangold) hoisted the World Championship trophy, and Goulian has never before held the overall lead going into the final stop of the season. The Massachusetts-based pilot flies into the pressure-cooker environment with the momentum of an October triumph at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but holds only a slim five-point advantage over his Czech rival Sonka.
Sonka and Hall both know the bittersweet taste of finishing a season as the runner-up. Just last year, Sonka was the overall leader but lost the crown to Japan’s Yoshihide Muroya in the last flight of the final race. The Aussie Hall, who is currently two points behind Sonka, finished second overall in both 2016 and 2015 (when he also took a podium at the Fort Worth race). At the Indianapolis stop just weeks ago, both pilots struggled, leading insiders to wonder whether the pressure is just a bit too much – or if they will bounce back with a vengeance at Texas Motor Speedway.
Meanwhile, the other contenders in the elite 14-pilot field, like Texas native Kirby Chambliss and 2014 Fort Worth winner Nicolas Ivanoff of France, will be keen to complicate matters by stealing the race victory from the leaders. Fans at Fort Worth will also see six outstanding young pilots facing off to determine the 2018 Challenger Cup Champion in the second competition category of the sport. Among them: Germany’s Florian Bergér, looking to clinch a record hat-trick of three titles in a row, and the USA’s home favorite Kevin Coleman, as well as pilots from Hong Kong, Poland, France and Sweden.