At the start of the 2018 season the Challengers were greeted with new Edge 540V2s to race in. These are the same aircraft some of the Master Class pilots fly, although less modified.
The Challenger raceplanes have the same engine and propeller as the Master Class pilots – but with slightly different restrictions. They will have slightly less power and some other small changes. All of the Challenger planes were given new engines, new components, new wiring and new wingtips at the start of the season.
Technical Director Jim Reed on the differences
These Edges are far more powerful and agile than the Extra 330LX that the Challengers fly, but after nearly a full season of flying these raceplanes, what do the Challengers think?
Daniel Ryfa who has been part of the Challenger Class since the series began in 2014, has more experience than most in the Extra, but instantly preferred the new plane. "The Edge is awesome; it's the perfect tool to race with. I've had very little time in it, but I'm comfortable already," he explained.
Luke Czepiela, who finished third in Abu Dhabi explains what excites him about the new raceplanes: "With the Extra we were 10 seconds behind the Master Class pilots' times, now we're only three or four seconds behind."
Patrick Davidson is no stranger to flying different aircraft, he has logged more than 2,500 flying hours in over 30 different aircraft, so knows how to acclimatise to a new plane. "I'd only flown the Edge once before Abu Dhabi. I fly a lot of different aircraft at home, which helps me adapt quickly. The Edge is unique, it maintains its speed through the corners incredibly well, which is something to get used to," he explained.
Although the pilots loved flying the new raceplane, there comes learning. With more power and agility, there's more chance that the Challengers will pick up penalties, which means they have to adjust their flying styles. "The Edge brings so much more energy, which will bring problems with over-Gs," said Czepiela.
Daniel Genevey also said he needed time to appreciate how to fly the Edge. "The Edge is fantastic and we're going a lot faster, so we have to work out the G-meters and it's just a question of practice," he explained.
Florian Bergér, who struggled at first in the Edge, managed to get comfortable and is now leading the standings. "I like the new plane a lot. It's a lot nicer and faster," he said.
"The Edge is far more agile, and it provides the pilot with a lot more 'feeling'. Everything is much more sensitive," reports Kenny Chiang, who got his first chance to race with the Edge at the recent stop in Budapest. "As it is flying around 20 per cent faster than the Extra, it requires a faster reaction time, but it is also easy to over-compensate."
Kevin Coleman agrees: "I think it is a balance. Some things about the Edge are easier compared to the Extra, and some are harder. The Edge is obviously faster and it holds the G really well. It is for sure easier to over-G compared to the Extra."
So it seems all the Challengers prefer the Edge, and it will make for a tense final in Fort Worth on the 17-18 November, get your tickets HERE.