Germany’s Bergér blazes into new Air Racing season with top Free Practice times

Courtesy of Red Bull Air Race Media Service Team

As Free Practice for the Red Bull Air Race 2019 opener in Abu Dhabi, UAE took off on Thursday, six pilots from the sport’s feeder category, the Challenger Class, made the most of cloudless skies. Two-time Challenger Cup winner Florian Bergér of Germany topped the timesheet in each of the two sessions, while Mélanie Astles of France had the day’s second-best result. Reigning Challenger Cup Champion Luke Czepiela also excelled with the third-best time.

Abu Dhabi, UAE

–  Bergér was fast out of the blocks, flying to the best time in Free Practice 1. His 57.720s was over half a second faster than the next pilot on the timesheet, Czepiela, while Astles was third. Almost all of the six pilots upped their game in Free Practice 2, and the same top trio shuffled their order, with Bergér at 57.552 for first, Astles improving to 57.772 in second and Czepiela delivering 58.101 in third.

– Abu Dhabi is hosting the Red Bull Air Race season opener for the 12th consecutive season, with its skyscrapers a dramatic background as the raceplanes fly through a track of 25-metre-high pylons.

–  The feeder category of the Red Bull Air Race, the Challenger Class was launched in 2014 to help the next generation of pilots develop the skills needed for potential advancement to the Master Class. Six former contenders for the Challenger Cup are now flying in the World Championship.

– Other Challenger Class pilots racing in Abu Dhabi are Kevin Coleman (USA), Dario Costa (ITA) and Sammy Mason (USA). Additional pilots, including newcomers to the lineup from Austria and Switzerland, will participate in upcoming Challenger Class races as the season continues.

– The USA’s Mason, who is also new to the Challenger Class lineup this year, turned 25 on 3 February, making him the youngest pilot ever to compete in the Red Bull Air Race.

– Several of this weekend’s contenders have previous Abu Dhabi podiums: Bergér won in 2018, was second in 2017 and third in 2016. Coleman was second in 2016 and third in 2018. Czepiela was second in the Emirates capital in 2018, and Astles was third in 2017. 

– A full weekend of Air Racing lies ahead at Abu Dhabi’s famed Corniche. For both the Challenger Class and the World Championship’s Master Class, the action kicks off with Qualifying sessions on Friday, 8 February, followed by Race Day on Saturday, 9 Feburary 2019.


Florian Bergér (GER): “At the moment I’m quite happy. I enjoyed being back in the track, and times are good at the moemnt. I will have to see about the tactics, because I think there are two ways to fly the Vertical Turning Manoeuvre, an oblique flat one or a vertical one. It depends probably on the wind. Last year I was not so comfortable from the beginning, and this year it’s a bit better for me, probably because I’m more used to the plane.”

Sammy Mason (USA): “I’m feeling really good. I’ve been here for a week so I could get in the groove, and I think I’m starting to relax now. I was really happy with my first practice this morning – no penalties, having a nice time. And no pylon hits in the second Free Practice, which was the main goal. I’m honored to be here and fly in Abu Dhabi in an Edge raceplane through pylons. I’m excited and I’m looking forward to Qualifying.

For ticket information and all the latest news on the Red Bull Air Race, visit

Results Challenger Class Free Practice 1, Abu Dhabi 2019:  1. Florian Bergér (GER) 57.720, 2. Luke Czepiela (POL) 58.344, 3. Mélanie Astles (FRA) 58.656, 4. Kevin Coleman (USA) 58.706, 5. Sammy Mason (USA) 59.031, 6. Dario Costa (ITA) 1:00.440

Results Challenger Class Free Practice 2, Abu Dhabi 2019:  1. Florian Bergér (GER) 57.552, 2. Mélanie Astles (FRA) 57.772, 3. Luke Czepiela (POL) 58.101, 4. Kevin Coleman (USA) 58.209, 5. Dario Costa (ITA) 59.572, 6. Sammy Mason (USA) 1:01.406

Red Bull Air Race 2019 Calendar
8-9 February: Abu Dhabi, UAE
TBA: Europe
15-16 June: Kazan, Russia
13-14 July: Budapest, Hungary
7-8 September: Chiba, Japan
TBA: Asia
19-20 October: Indianapolis, USA
8-9 November: Saudi Arabia

About Red Bull Air Race 
The Red Bull Air Race World Championship is an aerial motorsport series that demands a combination of speed, precision and skill. Using the fastest, most agile, high performance race planes, pilots compete in iconic locations over water and land. The high speed, low altitude and extreme manoeuvrability required make it only accessible to the world’s most exceptional pilots.

Flying just metres from the ground, 14 Master Class pilots race against the clock whilst reaching speeds of up to 370 km/h, requiring a combination of precision and skill unmatched in the world of aviation. Pilots must be in peak physical condition as they endure forces up to 12G while navigating the technical racetracks made up of air-filled pylons. 

The Air Race was developed in 2003 and is accredited by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), with more than 90 races completed across five continents. As the most advanced aerial challenge in existence, competing in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship is the highest accolade for elite pilots. 

A Challenger Cup feeder series was introduced in 2014 with the goal of facilitating the development of the unique skills required for the Master Class for the next generation of pilots. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.