Welcome back to Ascot Racecourse! We are with you from now until the end of today's action – we'll have Challenger Cup Qualifying, Master Class Qualifying followed by the Challenger Cup race...
Let's do a quick recap of where we're at so far in the 2016 season, as we move into the second half of the World Championship...
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...
The big focus here in the UK is on home favourite Nigel Lamb, who announced he will retire at the end of the season. The home fans are here in droves to show their support for the Breitling Racing Team... but the question remains whether Lamb can climb from 6th place overall with a podium here on the hallowed turf of Ascot Racecourse...
With the Free Practice sessions on Friday, we already saw fine form from the top half of the table, with Dolderer fastest in FP1 and Muroya taking the top spot in FP2.
The racetrack here at Ascot is one of the most picturesque, set amidst the Ascot Racecourse landscape and through the adjacent golf course. It's a technical track, with the added challenge posed by the large oak tree close to the boundary line
Max last 10 min: 17 kts
Temperature: 19.7 ℃
Air Pressure: 1011.1 mbar
Today is a big day for the Challenger Cup pilots, who will fly not only the Qualifying round, but also the main race
There are two pilots here in the UK that the fans are particularly interested in – former Red Arrows Team Leader Ben Murphy and the first ever female competitor, Melanie Astles who was born in Rugby...
In Challenger Free Practice 2, Ben Murphy posted the fastest time of the day in his class with a 1:16.903 – 2s faster than Florian Berger, who was faster in the first FP session
Murphy will really have to go all out here in Ascot if he wants to catch up USA pilot Kevin Coleman, who also joined the championship this year. Coleman is sitting comfortably at the top of the Challenger Cup standings with 24 points – Murphy is in 6th place with 6 points, so a win here is essential
Earlier this morning we had FP3 for the Challenger Cup pilots:
1. FLORIAN BERGER 1:17.477
2. DANIEL RYFA 1:17.511
3. BEN MURPHY 1:17.583
4. KEVIN COLEMAN 1:20.585
5. CRISTIAN BOLTON 1:21.344
6. MELANIE ASTLES 1:22.292
Back in the the track now for the Master Class pilots as they fly Free Practice 3
Petr Kopfstein won here in 2015 when he was in the Challenger Cup so this track could be lucky for the Czech pilot... but it's a different world in the Master Class
While the practice times don't count towards the final result, it gives a sense of what's to come...
Kopfstein is through with two runs – his fastest 1:07.456 is respectable
Slovenia's Podlunsek flies next and posts 1:08.359, which is faster than his 1:10 in Friday's session