Scores are on the doors for the 14 Master Class pilots, who have now completed two rounds of training over the land-based course in the UK... full info to follow, but here's the top 3 from each session:
FP 1: DOLDERER // HALL // VELARDE
FP2: MUROYA // GOULIAN // DOLDERER
We started the year with round 1 in Abu Dhabi, the traditional season opener, where France's Nicolas Ivanoff gave us a fantastic win. He was followed in second by Germany's Matthias Dolderer and the surprise package was a second French podium result in the shape of Francois Le Vot... it set the tone for an unpredictable year...
Dolderer kept his winning streak in round two at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, where he took to the top step for the first time in his Red Bull Air Race career. He was followed closely by 2008 World Champion Hannes Arch and 2014 World Champion Nigel Lamb. This show of strength from the German pilot was a clear sign that he's here in 2016 to take the title...
As we moved on to the third round in Chiba, Japan, it was a memorable race as local hero Yoshi Muroya made the top step for the first time in his Red Bull Air Race career – much to the delight of the Japanese fans! It was emotional!
In second was Martin Sonka and in third, former World Champion Kirby Chambliss – who has struggled in recent years to reclaim his former glory. The result really set the 2016 World Championship wide open with three winners in three races!
Round four moved to the Hungarian capital of Budapest – a big hit with the pilots and fans alike. It was the ninth time the race had visited the city, where the track is laid out along the Danube in front of the iconic Parliament building...
With the retirement of local hero Peter Besenyei at the end of 2015, it was a bittersweet return for the fans – who historically had shown HUGE love for the pilot
But bad weather made this a tough weekend for all, with a break in the rain resulting in a reduced race schedule – with final standings based on the Round of 8 results.
It was Dolderer, Arch and Hall who made the podium in Budapest – establishing the German pilot's lead in the overall standings by 15.25 points...
Ivanoff flies next – he had a podium here in 2014 with a 3rd place – could he pull it out of the bag again for the British crowd?
He's in 5th overall with 22 points to his name... he could still be within a shot of the title but it's a long one...
Great flying from Ivanoff! That run is enough to put him hot on the heels of McLeod with a 1:06.345!
Yoshihide Muroya goes next into the track and he's another podium hopeful who could steal Dolderer's crown... he's 4th overall on 22.5 points and very capable of a win
Muroya picks up double penalties in his first run but keeps it clean for his second go, to post a 1:07.237 putting him in 3rd place, with 4 to fly...
Chambliss goes next and the American has been in the Final 4 in the last two rounds... so don't underestimate this competitor, he's here to win!
Final result Free Practice 3:
13. LE VOT
WE ARE ON HERE IN ASCOT! Hello to you all and let's get set for Master Class Qualifying!
So Kopfstein is cleared into the track and our analyst reckons he's found a great line out there – yesterday's result would have been super fast without the penalty
And that's 3s straight away... 1:23.387 puts him back down to 6th...
CHALLENGER CUP RESULT ASCOT:
Round of 8 starting at 15:05...
Nicolas Ivanoff vs Matt Hall
Michael Goulian vs Yoshihide Muroya
Hannes Arch vs Nigel Lamb
Martin Sonka vs Matthias Dolderer
Thanks to everyone for being with us here at Ascot. What a great race, amazing weather and a new pilot atop the podium! Now on to round 6 in Germany... see you there 3-4 September!