Courtesy of Red Bull Air Race Media Service
History was made twice at the Red Bull Air Race season finale on Sunday, 15 October 2017, when Challenger Class pilot Mélanie Astles of France became the first woman to claim a major motorsport win of any kind at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Germany’s Florian Bergér became the first pilot ever to win back-to-back Challenger Cup season championships.
INDIANAPOLIS (USA) – Due to unfavorable weather conditions at Indianapolis Motor Speedway early on Sunday afternoon, specifically low clouds and rain, the Race Committee was forced to cancel the final of the Challenger Cup. This meant that the Challenger Class race podium at the iconic motorsport oval was based on Saturday’s Qualifying session, with pilots awarded 50 percent of the points.
The final season tally gave the repeat Challenger Cup to Bergér, at 38 points, with Sweden’s Daniel Ryfa (34 pts) taking his fourth consecutive overall podium in second place, and Luke Czepiela of Poland (34 pts) earning his first overall podium in third.
“On the one hand I’m very happy to have won, but I would rather have flown to lose or win the first position here. So I’m a little bit disappointed not to fly, but it’s great to have a second overall title,” said Bergér.
The Challenger Class was introduced to help outstanding pilots build their Air Racing skills to the elite level to potentially race in the Master Class that competes for the World Championship, and Astles was elated to complete her second season of competition on the high note of her first race win. In addition to rewriting the record books as the first woman ever to win a major motorsport race at Indianapolis, she became the first woman to win a race on a Red Bull Air Race weekend.
“I’m feeling really great. I think this racetrack is for me really a good one, because I’m setting all my career records here – my first podium last year, my first Qualifying win yesterday, and then that Quali became a race! So yesterday, without knowing it, I was winning my race,” Astles explained. “Because it wasn’t Race Day, I think I was more relaxed, and this was probably what made me win. So now I know what to do – I just have to stop thinking it’s a race and everything will be fine! I’m really looking forward to next year.”
Czepiela earned second place for the Indianapolis race, and Great Britain’s Ben Murphy was third.
With conditions improving, the Master Class race that will determine the 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championship is underway at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Final Challenger Cup Overall Standings 2017: 1. Florian Bergér (GER) 38 points, 2. Daniel Ryfa (SWE) 34 pts, 3. Luke Czepiela (POL) 34 pts, 4. Kevin Coleman (USA) 27 pts, 5. Mélanie Astles (FRA) 23 pts, 6. Ben Murphy (GBR) 19 pts, 7. Baptiste Vignes (FRA) 14 pts, 8. Kenny Chiang (CHN) 12 pts, 9. Daniel Genevey (HUN) 12 pts
ABOUT RED BULL AIR RACE
Created in 2003, the Red Bull Air Race World Championship celebrated its landmark 75th race at the 2017 season opener in Abu Dhabi. The Red Bull Air Race World Championship features the world’s best race pilots in a pure motorsport competition that combines speed, precision and skill. Using the fastest, most agile, lightweight racing planes, pilots hit speeds of 370kmh while enduring forces of up to 10G as they navigate a low-level slalom track marked by 25-meter-high, air-filled pylons. In 2014, the Challenger Cup was conceived to help the next generation of pilots develop the skills needed for potential advancement to the Master Class that vies for the World Championship.