The Challenger Cup has delivered some of the most exciting races in the Red Bull Air Race since its introduction in 2014. It was set up as a feeder class so pilots could gain valuable air racing skills before heading up to the Master Class.
Six pilots have made that leap and they are making waves in the elite group. François Le Vot stood on the podium in only his second season. Juan Velarde finished second in Abu Dhabi this year, and both Peter Podlunsek and Cristian Bolton both made it into the Round of 8 in their second races. Race Director Steve Jones said of the Challenger Cup: "It is absolutely vital for the Air Race, I think it could stand on its own. Not only is it a feeder series, but it's also a great competition. We have such a high calibre of pilot taking part."
The Challenger Cup has always been a winner-takes-all race at the final venue of the season. The six top ranking pilots, who collected the most amount of points at the earlier races, were invited to the final race of the season and whoever won that race was crowned the Challenger Cup Champion. Petr Kopfstein won in 2014, with Mikael Brageot taking it in 2015, and Florian Bergér winning last year.
However, the competition has changed for the 2017 season. This year the final will not be a winner-takes-all competition. It will be very similar to the Master Class. Each pilot will fly a minimum of four races throughout the eight-race season. Each pilot's top four scores will be added together and the top six will be invited to take part in the final. At the final race the points will be added to the pilots totals and the highest scorer will be crowned the Challenger Cup Champion.
Daniel Ryfa already has an advantage by winning in Abu Dhabi, he beat Florian Bergér by just 0.355s and collected 10 points. The next Challenger race will take part in San Diego on 15-16 April and you can be there. Get your tickets HERE.