Sweden’s Ryfa rocks the Riviera in Red Bull Air Race Free Practice
History’s first Red Bull Air Race stop in France took off over the film capital of Cannes on Friday, and Challenger Class pilot Daniel Ryfa of Sweden was ready for his close-up, delivering the fastest run in each of two Free Practice sessions. But local darling Mélanie Astles was right behind, looking for her own starring role when Qualifying and Race Day captivate the Croisette this weekend.
Ryfa and Astles were the only two pilots to break 65 seconds across the day’s runs, with Ryfa consistent at 1:04.069 in Free Practice 1 and 1:04.020 in the subsequent session, while Astles jumped up from 1:05.319 in her first session to 1:04.628 in the second. Of note: Although Ryfa competed in February’s 2018 kickoff in Abu Dhabi, Astles’ home stop in Cannes marks her first race of the season, as well as the first time she is flying in the new Challenger Class raceplane, the Edge 540 V2.
“For me, it’s a great day, because it’s my first day in the track in Cannes, and I was the first active race pilot to open the track, so as I’m from the region, it was a real honor for me,” said Astles, who grew up near Cannes in Beausoleil. “Flying the Edge for the first time, I was a bit apprehensive, and I hadn’t been racing for six months, but the feeling is there. I’ve been testing a few things, so we’ll see if I can make this plane go faster.”
Sweden’s Ryfa, meanwhile, came into 2018 as one of the favorites and took pole position in Abu Dhabi, only to finish fifth after clipping a pylon on Race Day. Like Astles, he is exceptionally motivated to do well on the Riviera.
“Before I came to France, I had a very clear picture of what to do, and then I found the racetrack to be a bit more complicated than I thought – a little tighter and smaller, and there are a couple of angles that you have to figure out. I’ve been working quite hard, and I still have some work to do, but overall it feels quite relaxed,” shared Ryfa, whose quiet confidence comes from four previous seasons in the sport. “Because of Abu Dhabi, I need to gain points here, so it’s a very important race for me.”
The Challenger Class was introduced in 2014 to help the next generation of pilots develop the skills needed for potential advancement to the Master Class, and six former contenders for the Challenger Cup are now flying in the World Championship. This year, a total of 10 pilots are contending for the Challenger Cup, including the other Cannes contenders, Dario Costa of Italy; Daniel Genevey, who flies for Hungary; Patrick Davidson of South Africa; and another proud French pilot in his first home race, Baptiste Vignes.
See the premiere! Good seats are still available for the first-ever Red Bull Air Race stop in France, with Qualifying on Saturday, 21 April and Race Day on Sunday, 22 April 2018. For more information on tickets and all the latest, visit www.redbullairrace.com.
Photo credit: Mihai Stetcu/Red Bull Content Pool