Red Bull Air Race 2016: Polish pilot Czepiela blazes in Challenger Class
With less than 24 hours to go before the ninth consecutive season opener of the Red Bull Air Race in Abu Dhabi, pilot Luke Czepiela of Poland got a fast start to the season with a top Qualifying time of 1:07.241 seconds in the Challenger Class.
The top three finishers in Challenger Class Qualifying were within a second of each other, with Daniel Ryfa of Sweden logging the second-fastest time at 1:07.348 and Francis Barros of Brazil in third with 1:08.198.
Now in its third season, the Challenger Cup is an element of the Red Bull Air Race created to help the next generation of pilots develop the skills and experience needed for potential advancement to the Master Class. As of the 2016 season, four previous Challenger Class pilots have advanced to the Master Class – the elite lineup that competes for the World Championship title. Besides the top three qualifiers, the Challenger Class line-up in Abu Dhabi includes Florian Bergér (GER) and two pilots new to the field this year, Kevin Coleman (USA) and Ben Murphy (GBR).
Czepiela, who was a contender for the Challenger Cup title in 2014, is back after a year’s hiatus and looking to improve upon his career-best finish of fourth place at Ascot Racecourse.
“Throughout that year away, my hunger for race flying grew like hell!” said Czepiela. “I’m super happy to be back and even more, I’m happy that here at the first race, after a really bad day in practice yesterday I managed to pull it all off and win Qualifying. Today’s flight was pretty good – so I’m not planning a lot of changes for tomorrow, but I think I can cut a few hundredths of a second off in some places.”
Both the Challenger Class and Master Class will race for the win at the Abu Dhabi Corniche tomorrow.
Results Challenger Class Qualifying
1. Luke Czepiela (POL) 1:07.241, 2. Daniel Ryfa (SWE) 1:07.348, 3. Francis Barros (BRA) 1:08.198, 4. Kevin Coleman (USA) 1:09.820, 5. Florian Bergér (GER) 1:10.087, 6. Ben Murphy (GBR) DQ
Photo credit: Balazs Gardi