The Challenger races in Abu Dhabi

A look back at four fantastic races

Bergér in the Abu Dhabi racetrack

Next week we will see the fifth Challenger Class race to be held in Abu Dhabi. The majority of the Challengers have Abu Dhabi as one of their favourite locations due to it being the first time they ever competed in the Red Bull Air Race.

So before we take to the skies for the 2018 Challenger Cup race over the Corniche, lets look at the previous races held in the UAE's capital...

2014

The first race in Challenger Class history took place on 01 March 2014. With nobody really knowing what to expect it was a heart-pumping race that is still one of the closest in the sport's history. François Le Vot took the win with a time of 1:02.654. Just behind him was Daniel Ryfa, who was faster at the first split, but lost out in the later sections in the track – but only just – he crossed the Finish Gate just 0.025s slower than Le Vot, third was Juan Velarde and fourth was Petr Kopfstein.

Le Vot went on to win the next two races and Kopfstein became the inaugural Challenger Cup Champion when he won at the season finale in Spielberg. At the end of the 2014 season Le Vot and Velarde were promoted to the Master Class.

2015

The return to Abu Dhabi saw two new pilots join the Challenger Class, Germany's Florian Bergér and Francis Barros of Brazil. It was time for Cristian Bolton to take his first career win, with reigning Champion Kopfstein in second place 0.374s behind. Mikael Brageot finished third and Bergér, in his first race, finished fourth and missed out on a debut podium by 0.5s.

Brageot went on to be crowned champion and entered the Master Mentoring Program at the end of the season. Kopfstein, along with Peter Podlunsek moved up in to the Master Class for the following season.

2016

Three new members joined the Challenger Class at the start of the 2016 season, Brit Ben Murphy, American Kevin Coleman and French pilot Mélanie Astles – the first woman in the sport's history to take part. Astles wasn't competing in Abu Dhabi, but the other two were. Also after a season-long break, Luke Czepiela returned to the Challenger Class.

Czepiela had no sign of rust as he posted the fastest time in Qualifying, however, Race Day belonged to Daniel Ryfa who posted a time of 1:06.308. Closest to Ryfa was Coleman who was 0.637s behind and claimed a second place finish in his first ever race. Third was Florian Bergér, with Murphy finishing fourth.

Bergér went on to claim the Challenger Cup title at the end of 2016, with Ryfa in second and Coleman in fourth. Cristian Bolton moved into the Master Class as did Mikael Brageot after his year in the MMP.

2017

Baptiste Vignes, Daniel Genevey and Kenny Chiang – the first pilot from China to compete in the sport – all joined the Challenger Class for 2017. Seven pilots took part in the Abu Dhabi race last year, Vignes being the only new pilot. Once again Daniel Ryfa took the win, which currently makes him the most successful Challenger Class pilot in the UAE races. Bergér was second with a time that was 0.335s slower than the Swedish pilot's. Astles took third and Murphy fourth.

Bergér once again made history at the end of the season by becoming the first pilot to win back-to-back Challenger Cup titles. Ben Murphy was moved into the Master Class for the 2018 season.

2018

This year will see 10 pilots enter the Challenger Cup. Two new members have joined, Patrick Davidson of South Africa and Italy's Dario Costa – both pilots are the first to represent their countries in the Challenger Cup. They will be making their debuts in Abu Dhabi.

Seven pilots will compete at the season opener on 02-03 February to collect as many championship points as possible. The seven pilots are: Florian Bergér, Kevin Coleman, Luke Czepiela, Daniel Genevey, Daniel Ryfa, Dario Costa and Patrick Davidson.

You can watch how the race unfolds, get your tickets HERE.