Even though Cannes represented only the second race of the season, Daniel Ryfa was feeling the pressure and felt that he needed to win to keep his championship hopes alive.
At the season opener in Abu Dhabi the Swedish pilot only collected two points after hitting a pylon at the penultimate gate, dropping him down to fifth the rankings. So he arrived in Cannes ready to win! Ryfa took the win, but he didn't have the easiest path to success on Race Day.
"Of course it means a lot to win the first race here in Cannes – it's super cool to be here," he said after claiming the podium top spot. "I screwed up in Abu Dhabi so I needed to make sure I got points here for the Championship title and now it looks a little bit better."
Ryfa topped the three Free Practice sessions and Qualifying so he looked set to win in France, but disaster struck his raceplane (the Challengers share three raceplanes between them and are assigned either #1, #2 or #3 at the start of race week). Ryfa was sharing #2 with fellow Challenger Daniel Genevey. "Daniel was flying with the #2 raceplane in the track before me," explained Ryfa. "After he returned, I was about to jump into the cockpit but there was a small technical issue with the aircraft and it was grounded," he said.
To ensure Ryfa had the chance to fly he was then assigned #1 as it had already returned from the previous flight. "All of a sudden there was a lot of panic and there was a lot of stress for me, they then brought me #1, which I had never flown before. You have to know the plane's sweet spot to fly quickly and cleanly. And this track was designed so if you made any mistakes you wouldn't win."
Baptiste Vignes was leading the timesheet before Ryfa went into the track. During Ryfa's run he was behind the Frenchman, but when he crossed the Finish Gate he took the win by 0.432s. "I didn't know Baptiste was leading, I was in the track concentrating on other things. I had to fly smoothly and as tightly as possible to gain a lot of time. In the end it worked out which is good news for me, bad news for Baptiste but that's racing, it is what it is," he said.
Ryfa now tops the standings and when asked if he was going to win the Challenger Cup after being runner up to Florian Bergér for the last two years he said: "If you ask me, I'm the winner. If you ask Flo, he's the winner, so we don't agree on that. He had a good head start in Abu Dhabi because I failed – I will try not to do that again. I will be watching his next race in Budapest hoping he'll take a pylon down, which will be good for me and bad for him. But the best pilot will win for sure!"