Germany’s Bergér goes back-to-back in Abu Dhabi

Courtesy of Red Bull Air Race Media Service Team

Two-time Red Bull Air Race Challenger Cup Champion Florian Bergér began his campaign for a third title in brilliant fashion at the season opener in Abu Dhabi this weekend. The German topped the timesheet in every session from practice through Qualifying, and capped it off with his second consecutive win over the famed Corniche, making him the pilot to beat as the 2019 season continues. Mélanie Astles of France ended a podium drought with second and the USA’s Kevin Coleman took third.

Abu Dhabi, UAE

– The first to take off, Coleman served up a confident, penalty free run for a quick time of 58.411.Then Astles, the only woman pilot in the Red Bull Air Race, was third to fly in the six-pilot field and delivered a thrilling comeback run. In her first lap of the two-lap track, she incurred a one-second Over G penalty that seemed to put an end to her hopes for a podium. But exceptional flying in the second lap saw the French pilot rebound to overtake Coleman at 58.074. Her time held until Bergér, the last to fly, took off and, calm under pressure, delivered a crisp 57.728 for the win.

– Bergér joined the Challenger Class in 2015. He is the only German ever to have claimed the season Challenger Cup title, and he’s the only pilot of any nationality to have earned that honor twice (2016, 2017). In 2018 he won Abu Dhabi and came within 0.05s of a Challenger Cup hat-trick at the end of the season, but Polish pilot Luke Czepiela captured the championship, leaving Bergér hungry to regain the crown.

– In the 2017 finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Astles became the first female race winner in the history of the Red Bull Air Race, as well as the first woman to win a major motorsport event at the American oval. However, after finishing in fourth place in all four of her 2018 races, Astles was elated to return to the podium, the sixth of her career.

– Coleman’s third place marked the 12th podium of his career.

–  Sammy Mason of the United States, who at 25 is the youngest pilot ever to compete in the Red Bull Air Race, finished fourth in his first career race, with no pylon hits and no penalties. Dario Costa of Italy was fifth. Defending Challenger Cup Champion Czepiela took an aggressive tactic but pushed too far, receiving a DNF (Did Not Finish) penalty for Exceeding Maximum G.

–  Winds were calm and skies were sunny at the Abu Dhabi Corniche, ideal weather in the 4-km track.

–  The feeder category of the Red Bull Air Race, the Challenger Class was established in 2014 to help the next generation of pilots build the skills necessary for potential advancement to the World Championship ranks. Additional pilots who will fly for the Challenger Cup this year include: Kenny Chiang (HKG), Patrick Davidson (RSA), Daniel Ryfa (SWE), Patrick Strasser (AUT), Baptiste Vignes (FRA) and Vito Wyprächtiger (SUI). All pilots will be assigned an equal number of races. 


Florian Bergér (GER): “I’m very happy. It’s a very nice feeling to get some points directly at the beginning of the championship. The conditions were nice, the aeroplane was running good, and I was calm before the race – I think this is very important for me. I do want to get the title back, and I’m definitely in the hunt, but it’s still early.” 

Mélanie Astles (FRA): “I’m amazed by my time. I stuck to my plan, but it looked like I pushed it a bit, because I got an Over G penalty. It feels good to be on the podium again – the level of competition is so high and the guys are flying so great that it’s really tight and really interesting. You could fly a good run and finish sixth. I just went full power today, and it worked.”

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Results Challenger Class, Abu Dhabi 2019:  1. Florian Bergér (GER) 57.728, 2. Mélanie Astles (FRA) 58.074, 3. Kevin Coleman (USA) 58.411, 4. Sammy Mason (USA) 58.647, 5. Dario Costa (ITA) 59.497, 6. Luke Czepiela (POL) DNF

Overall standings, Challenger Cup 2019, after one race:  1. Florian Bergér (GER) 10 points, 2. Mélanie Astles (FRA) 8 pts, 3. Kevin Coleman (USA) 6 pts, 4. Sammy Mason (USA) 4 pts,  5. Dario Costa (ITA) 2 pts,  6. Luke Czepiela (POL)  0 


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 accessible only 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.

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