All year, gamers have been racing through virtual versions of the tracks flown by the pilots of the Red Bull Air Race in Red Bull Air Race – 2. The top seven virtual pilots faced off at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday to decide the Virtual World Champion.
The 2017 champion is Manuel Fähndrich of Austria, and there may be a dynasty in the making: the 14-year-old is the son of Werner Pany, who won the title last year.
Launched in 2015, the Virtual World Championship recreates similar racetracks to those flown by the real World Championship teams. This year, the mobile game has given gamers the chance to race at exciting locations from San Diego to Kazan. And after seven races, it all came down to the season finale at the holy grail of motorsport. Tension was high, because the winner would not only earn the 2017 title, but also the once-in-a-lifetime thrill of a real G-flight with a Red Bull Air Race pilot.
The rival family members from Austria both made it into the Indianapolis final, as well as Johannes Kiesewetter of Germany, Rostislav Halachev of Bulgaria, Jiri Martan of the Czech Republic, Daniel Hable of Austria and Philipp Mauser of Germany. Just like the pilots of the real-life World Championship, the gamers battled in a Qualifying session, and they also toured the raceplane hangars and watched the racing action. On Sunday, after three tense elimination rounds, each cutting one virtual pilot from the running, the Final 4 was set: Father and son Pany and Fähndrich, plus their fellow Austrian Hable and Germany's Mauser.
And that's where the teenager shone, with a time of 1:11.725. Mauser earned second place with 1:12.762 and Hable took third with 1:13.957, leaving Pany off the podium in fourth. But despite seeing his championship year coming to an end, the Austrian father was proud of Manuel.
Watching his son receive top honours from 2006 Red Bull Air Race World Champion Kirby Chambliss, Pany said, "I'm happy for my son," and added, "It runs in the family!" Fähndrich was elated. "It feels amazing to be the Virtual World Champion! I was really excited and hoping I wasn't going to make a pylon hit." Teasing his father, he said, "It feels good that I beat him this year." Mauser and Hable, meanwhile, hinted that they'll be looking to claim the Virtual World Championship for themselves next year.
"It was a great pleasure to be back in the seat at the Red Bull Air Race. This is the second time I've finished in second place, and I was hoping to be one better, but of course I'm quite happy. Next year I'll be here winning first!" declared Mauser.
Hable chimed in, "I was fourth last year, so it's very good to be third place this year and I hope to be higher next year."
To get practicing for the 2018 Virtual World Championship – download Red Bull Air Race – 2 now.