Bergér and Astles clinch historic firsts at Indianapolis

© 2017 Red Bull Media House GmbH - all rights reserved

Melanie Astles of France (C) celebrates with Luke Czepiela of Poland (L) and Ben Murphy of Great Britain (R) during the award ceremony for the Challenger Cup at the eighth round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, United States on October 15, 2017 – © 2017 Red Bull Media House GmbH – all rights reserved

Due to unfavorable weather conditions at Indianapolis Motor Speedway early on Sunday afternoon, specifically low clouds and rain, the Race Committee was forced to cancel the final of the Challenger Cup. This meant that the Challenger Class race podium at the iconic motorsport oval was based on Saturday’s Qualifying session, with pilots awarded 50 percent of the points.

The final season tally gave the repeat Challenger Cup to Bergér, at 38 points, with Sweden’s Daniel Ryfa (34 pts) taking his fourth consecutive overall podium in second place, and Luke Czepiela of Poland (34 pts) earning his first overall podium in third.

“On the one hand I’m very happy to have won, but I would rather have flown to lose or win the first position here. So I’m a little bit disappointed not to fly, but it’s great to have a second overall title,” said Bergér.

The Challenger Class was introduced to help outstanding pilots build their Air Racing skills to the elite level to potentially race in the Master Class that competes for the World Championship, and Astles was elated to complete her second season of competition on the high note of her first race win. In addition to rewriting the record books as the first woman ever to win a major motorsport race at Indianapolis, she became the first woman to win a race on a Red Bull Air Race weekend.

“I’m feeling really great. I think this racetrack is for me really a good one, because I’m setting all my career records here – my first podium last year, my first Qualifying win yesterday, and then that Quali became a race! So yesterday, without knowing it, I was winning my race,” Astles explained. “Because it wasn’t Race Day, I think I was more relaxed, and this was probably what made me win. So now I know what to do – I just have to stop thinking it’s a race and everything will be fine! I’m really looking forward to next year.”

Czepiela earned second place for the Indianapolis race, and Great Britain’s Ben Murphy was third.

With conditions improving, the Master Class race that will determine the 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championship is underway at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Results Challenger Class, Indianapolis Motor Speedway 2017:1. Mélanie Astles (FRA), 2. Luke Czepiela (POL), 3. Ben Murphy (GBR) 4. Florian Bergér (GER) 5. Kevin Coleman (USA), 6. Daniel Ryfa (SWE)

Final Challenger Cup Overall Standings 2017: 1. Florian Bergér (GER) 38 points, 2. Daniel Ryfa (SWE) 34 pts, 3. Luke Czepiela (POL) 34 pts, 4. Kevin Coleman (USA) 27 pts, 5. Mélanie Astles (FRA) 23 pts, 6. Ben Murphy (GBR) 19 pts, 7. Baptiste Vignes (FRA) 14 pts, 8. Kenny Chiang (CHN) 12 pts, 9. Daniel Genevey (HUN) 12 pts

Muroya wins first Red Bull Air Race World Championship for Japan

Yoshihide Muroya of Japan poses for a photograph with 2017 Indy 500 winner and former Formula 1 driver Takuma Sato of Japan after he won at the eighth round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, United States - © 2017 Red Bull Media House GmbH - all rights reserved

Yoshihide Muroya of Japan poses for a photograph with 2017 Indy 500 winner and former Formula 1 driver Takuma Sato of Japan after he won at the eighth round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, United States – © 2017 Red Bull Media House GmbH – all rights reserved

The season finale was heartstopping from the very beginning, with Šonka and Muroya, ranked one and two in the standings, going head to head in the Round of 14. Flying first, Muroya’s championship hopes seemed to be over when he incurred a two-second penalty – but in strong winds Šonka hit a pylon for a three-second penalty that advanced Japan’s hero to the Round of 8. The other two pilots with a chance for the championship, Pete McLeod (Canada) and Kirby Chambliss (USA) also stumbled in the opening round, but Muroya still couldn’t rest, because Šonka ended up advancing after all as the round’s fastest loser. When the title contenders both won their Round of 8 heats, it all came down to the Final 4.

There, going first with everything on the line, Muroya was fearless, flying to a new track record of 1:03.026 that 2016 World Champion Matthias Dolderer of Germany and Spain’s Juan Velarde couldn’t match. The pressure all was on Šonka. The Czech pilot flew cleanly, but with a technical issue plus a wing stall in the Vertical Turning Maneuver, he could manage only 1:07.280, and both the race win and Asia’s first Red Bull Air Race World Championship belonged to Muroya.

As the race awards were handed out in the iconic infield of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Muroya was joined on the podium by Dolderer in second and Velarde in third. Then, when the World Championship trophy was presented, Muroya was sprayed with champagne by Šonka and McLeod, who stood on the overall podium for the first time themselves with second and third place overall, respectively.

“This is an amazing chapter for motorsports to win a race here. It was the tightest championship ever with the four of us close right up until the end. We were behind at the start of the season, so it was the long way and the hard way, but we made it,” said Muroya as he held back tears. “I thought the timing was broken when I saw my time in the Final 4, and before the race our computer would have said it wasn’t possible, so something was pushing me quite a lot. That was the fans, my family and my team, so thanks to them for making it happen.”

Clinching Japan’s first World Championship at Indianapolis Motor Speedway also marked a remarkable new milestone in the history of the century-old racetrack, where just this year Takuma Sato – who was on site all weekend to cheer Muroya – became the first Japanese racecar driver to win the famed Indianapolis 500.

Results Master Class race Indianapolis 2017:
1. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN), 2. Matthias Dolderer (GER), 3. Juan Velarde (ESP), 4. Martin Šonka (CZE), 5. Petr Kopfstein(CZE), 6. Mikaël Brageot (FRA), 7. Michael Goulian (USA), 8. Matt Hall (AUS), 9. Cristian Bolton (CHI), 10. Kirby Chambliss(USA), 11. Pete McLeod (CAN), 12. François Le Vot (FRA), 13. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA), 14. Peter Podlunšek (SLO)

Final standings, 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championship: 1. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 74 pts,   2. Martin Šonka(CZE) 70 points, 3. Pete McLeod (CAN) 56 pts, 4. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 53 pts, 5. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 43 pts, 6. Matt Hall (AUS) 40 pts, 7. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 39 pts, 8. Juan Velarde (ESP) 37 pts, 9. Michael Goulian (USA) 28 pts, 10. Mikaël Brageot (FRA) 24 pts, 11. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 16 pts, 12. Peter Podlunšek (SLO) 14 pts, 13. Cristian Bolton (CHI) 9 pts, 14. François Le Vot (FRA) 9 pts

© 2017 Red Bull Media House GmbH - all rights reserved

The Red Bull Air Race pilots pose for a photograph during the last stage of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Indianapolis, United States – © 2017 Red Bull Media House GmbH – all rights reserved