OFFICIAL CHALLENGER FREE PRACTICE 3 RESULTS:
Let's take a look at what the pilots will be tackling this weekend... three-time World Champion Paul Bonhomme flies us through the San Diego track and gives us the lowdown on how to win here in California
We're still underway with the Master Class Free Practice 3 session, which means Challenger Qualifying will start at around 1515 local time (around 10 minutes from now)... we'll share the results from FP3 as soon as the last pilot has flown. It's Martin Sonka and his smoke is ON so not long to wait :)
A quick recap from FP1 and 2: Martin Sonka made an impressive start to race two of the 2017 season by being the only pilot to break under the 59-second time barrier in Friday's Free Practice sessions.
CHALLENGER QUALIFYING IS UNDERWAY!
US pilot Kevin Coleman is first up, and he's making good work of the track
Track conditions, now wind coming from the West, which will keep the pilots on their toes
Coleman was 2nd in all FP sessions yesterday so consistent to say the least, but unable to keep up with German's Berger
He's clean through the track and posts 1:09.905!
Luke Czepiela flies next...
The Polish pilot hasn't had the best start here in San Diego and was 5th earlier today in FP3
It's a little slow again for Czepiela and he's off the pace, with red on the split times...
It's clean though and he stops the clock in 1:12.507
Next to fly, 3rd out of the field of 6, is Baptiste Vignes of France
The newcomer for 2017 was 3rd in two of the FP sessions, showing a promising start to his progress in the elite sport
It's 1:12.793 for Vignes, putting him in 3rd at the halfway point...
It will be Kenny Chiang next to fly. The pilot from Hong Kong was one of the youngest ever to fly the Boeing 747 and has already impressed those with a keen eye
Introduced in 2014, the Challenger Cup has proven to be a solid training ground for a new breed of race pilot to progress through the ranks and graduate to the Master Class
Each pilot flies the Extra 330LX, which is a two-seat raceplane. It isn't as fast as those used in the Master Class but is a trusty steed for learning the ropes out in the track
By competing on a level playing field, it allows the Challenger pilots to really focus on their skill in the track without the additional need for managing a dedicated race team or considering a modification programme
And Chiang is cleared into the track! Here we go...
Coleman is currently in the lead at the halfway point... and Chiang's split times are not quite fast enough to push the American from the top spot...
It's a solid run... and then it's the buzzer for the first time in this session!
That's 2s for incorrect level at Gate 10, which leaves him with 1:13.275 on the clock
Chiang moves into 4th place, with Berger and Genevey to fly
We've heard the wind has increased to 10-12kts so the last two pilots will possibly feel that in the track
And Berger is up now! Can he make it a full house today by dominating this Qualifying session? He's off to a great start and already ahead of Coleman's time at the first split!
- Pylon Hit!
This is easy work for the German – the defending 2016 champion – green all the way... and then it's a pylon hit at Gate 14!
That wasn't part of the plan :(
It's 1:12.984 for Berger with 3s included for the pylon hit... although his net time wouldn't have been quite as fast as Coleman's
Last to fly is Hungary's Daniel Genevey – new to the race for 2017 and flying his first race here in San Diego
And here he goes! It's just about getting through the track cleanly, so Genevey has nothing to prove at this stage
He's red on the split times as expected and it's a respectable debut for the newcomer, even if that time is well off the pace