Three new pilots join the 2019 Challenger Class
The sixth season of racing in the Challenger Class of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship will feature an expanded field of 12 pilots, plus changes in the format for the coveted Challenger Cup. As the young guns prepare to start up their raceplanes, here is everything you need to know.
Sammy Mason, who turns 25 on 03 February, will be the youngest pilot ever to compete in the Red Bull Air Race. A third-generation aviator with gold medal success in aerobatic competitions and a strong background in top airshows, Mason has deep experience despite his youth. The native Californian also loves skateboarding and surfing when he is not flying.
Patrick Strasser is the first Austrian to fly in the Red Bull Air Race since 2016. He is an aerobatics instructor and trainer and has won national aerobatic championships in addition to competing on the European stage. Strasser also flies ambulance missions and plays a key role in training and directing staff at an Austria-based aviation company.
Vito Wyprächtiger is the first Swiss pilot in the history of the Red Bull Air Race and a championship winner in aviation sports such as aerobatics as well as a display pilot and aircraft engineer. He was crew chief for the team of Hannes Arch who won the 2008 Red Bull Air Race World Championship and was also previously involved in the sport as a test pilot.
Nine of the pilots in the 2019 lineup are returning to compete again, including defending Challenger Cup Champion Luke Czepiela, as well as two-time Challenger Cup winner Florian Bergér and Mélanie Astles, who became the first woman to win a major motorsport event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a Challenger Class race win in 2017.
A new format makes the Challenger Cup outcome even more unpredictable. In previous seasons, Challenger Class pilots competed through the penultimate race of the season, and then only the points leaders were granted a berth in the season finale where the Challenger Cup was awarded. This year, the season finale will be treated like any other race. Six pilots from the 12-pilot field will typically compete at each stop on the calendar, with all the pilots having an opportunity to fly an equal number of races. The pilot with the highest aggregate total of points at the end of the season will be named Challenger Cup Champion.
2019 Challenger Class pilots
Mélanie Astles (FRA)
Florian Bergér (GER)
Kenny Chiang (HKG)
Kevin Coleman (USA)
Dario Costa (ITA)
Luke Czepiela (POL)
Patrick Davidson (RSA)
Sammy Mason (USA)
Daniel Ryfa (SWE)
Patrick Strasser (AUT)
Baptiste Vignes (FRA)
Vito Wyprächtiger (SUI)