Red Bull Air Race World Championship crowns 2016 champions in Las Vegas
In a wild and windy season finale, pilot Matthias Dolderer was crowned Germany's first Red Bull Air Race World Champion in Las Vegas on Sunday.
Australia's Matt Hall, the only pilot able to challenge Dolderer's dominance in the final stages of the season, shared the champagne from the second step of the podium. Third place was confirmed for Austria's Hannes Arch, the former championship winner whose dynamic season was cut short when he perished in a private helicopter accident in early September.
"It's amazing - a fantastic feeling. As much as this trophy weighs, that weight has come off my shoulders," said Dolderer, who earned six race podiums including three wins to capture his maiden title in his fifth season. "You never reach 100 percent: We have been trying to get better and better, race by race, and I hope we come back even stronger next year. We won't give up and will try to defend this trophy."
High winds and gusts above 30 knots (34 mph) had forced the Race Committee to delay all Race Day flying sessions in Las Vegas. When a break in the conditions arose the Air Gates went up and the pilots took off for the Round of 14, but the weather window closed before the final two pilots could fly through the racetrack. With the Round of 14 incomplete, the day's results were invalid. Dolderer and Hall, however, had both clinched their season-leading positions before the finale, with the points they earned at the seventh stop of 2016 in Indianapolis, USA.
"The strong winds and gusts today forced the Race Committee to cancel all flying sessions. This decision is in response to the inability to fully operate a safe racetrack and flying conditions. Safety is of the utmost priority, and with gusts over 30 knots, it exceeds our ability to conduct the race in a safe and fair manner," Race Director Jim DiMatteo said.
Among many special moments on the unusual Race Day was warm recognition from the entire field of Master Class pilots for the close of Nigel Lamb's racing career. The 2014 World Champion from Great Britain is hanging up his racing gloves and had delivered a fiercely competitive final season, claiming a track record and two race podiums on the way.
Florian Bergér was crowned the 2016 Challenger Cup Champion, the first German ever to earn the title. Sweden's Daniel Ryfa took second-place honors, with the USA's own Kevin Coleman in third.
The Challenger Cup should be a winner-takes-all race at the last stop of the year, but when high winds forced the Race Committee to cancel the day's Challenger flights, the title result was based on points.
It was a breakthrough year for Bergér in the Challenger Class. The German earned his maiden win at April's race stop in Spielberg, Austria, and celebrated his first home victory at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz in September, with consistency throughout the season that put him at the top of the standings
While Ryfa and Coleman were tied in the overall points, the two 2016 race wins of the more experienced Ryfa to a single victory for newcomer Coleman served as the tiebreaker. All six competitors invited to the Final at Las Vegas Motor Speedway - who also included Luke Czepiela of Poland, Ben Murphy of Great Britain and the first woman in the history of the sport, Mélanie Astles of France - earned one or more podiums in the 2016 season.
Final Standings, 2016 Red Bull Air Race World Championship
1. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 80.25 points; 2. Matt Hall (AUS) 55.75 pts; 3. Hannes Arch (AUT) 41 pts; 4. Nigel Lamb (GBR) 37.75 pts; 5. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 35 pts; 6. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 31.50 pts; 7. Pete McLeod (CAN) 30.50 pts; 8. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 30.25 pts; 9. Martin Šonka (CZE) 25 pts; 10. Michael Goulian (USA) 19.75 pts; 11. Juan Velarde (ESP) 14.25 pts; 12. François Le Vot (FRA) 10 pts, 13. (tie) Peter Podlunšek (SLO) and Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 4 pts; 15. Cristian Bolton (CHI) 0 pts.
Final Standings, 2016 Challenger Cup
1. Florian Berger (GER) 28 pts; 2. Daniel Ryfa (SWE) 26; 3. Kevin Coleman (USA) 26; 4. Luke Czepiela (POL) 24; 5. (tie) Cristian Bolton (CHI) and Ben Murphy (GBR) 20; 7. Mélanie Astles (FRA) 16; 8. Francis Barros (BRA) 2.