Families and fans were out in force on Saturday to watch the first Red Bull Air Race Qualifying in San Diego, California since 2009. Defending World Champion Matthias Dolderer of Germany fought off hard charges from the USA’s Michael Goulian and the Czech Republic’s Martin Šonka to take the pole for Race Day on Sunday, 16 April 2017.

San Diego, California (USA) – More than 20,000 spectators were on their feet in San Diego, California on Saturday as the reigning Red Bull Air Race World Champion battled with two fierce opponents – the man who currently leads the standings, as well as an American in his home race ­– for the top spot in Qualifying at the second stop of 2017. As the pilots raced at speeds of 370kph/230mph, defending titleholder Matthias Dolderer of Germany came out on top with 58.332s, while only two-thousandths of a second separated the USA’s Michael Goulian (58.978) and the Czech Republic’s Martin Šonka (58.980) in second and third.

Dolderer was the dominant force of the 2016 season, winning the second stop of the year and going on to clinch the championship even before the season finale. But it was Šonka who claimed the race win at the 2017 season opener in Abu Dhabi to put himself at the head of the overall standings for the first time in his career. Goulian, whose last win was in 2009, seems to be flying with renewed confidence this season. Another American, two-time titleholder Kirby Chambliss, was sixth in San Diego Qualifying and looks to come back strong on Sunday.

Qualifying determines the head-to-head matchups for the opening Round of 14 on Race Day, and Dolderer will go up against Master Class newcomer Mikaël Brageot, a Frenchman in only his second World Championship race.

“It was a cool run. I had a lot of fun and I was totally relaxed, and I think that’s key,” said Dolderer, who had placed fourth at the season opener. “Abu Dhabi wasn’t that bad – I was in the Final 4 and I almost finished second. Here I’ve started to like the track; I’m really comfortable now. There’s always a little bit of a mental secret, also.”

Dolderer also earned the DHL Fastest Lap Award for San Diego. A component that defines a new standard of speed at the Red Bull Air Race, at each stop the DHL Fastest Lap Award goes to the pilot who records the fastest single lap among all of the two-lap Qualifying runs. At the end of the season, the pilot with the most awards across the eight races will be honored with the DHL Fastest Lap trophy. Currently Dolderer and Goulian are tied with one award each.

The weather is perfect in Southern California, so catch the action! Tickets for the 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championship – including Race Day in San Diego on Sunday, 16 April 2017 – are on sale now. For more information on tickets and all the latest, visit www.redbullairrace.com

Results Master Class Qualifying, San Diego 2017:
1. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 58.332, 2. Michael Goulian (USA) 58.978, 3. Martin Šonka (CZE) 58.980, 4. Matt Hall (AUS) 59.516, 5. Pete McLeod (CAN) 59.627, 6. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 1:00.256, 7. Juan Velarde (ESP) 1:00.326, 8. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 1:00.331, 9. François Le Vot (FRA) 1:01.097, 10. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 1:01.384, 11. Peter Podlunšek (SLO) 1:01.566, 12. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 1:01.606, 13. Cristian Bolton (CHI) 1:04.156, 14. Mikaël Brageot (FRA) DNS