Two top international pilots, Cristian Bolton of Chile and Mikael "Mika" Brageot of France, will join the exclusive lineup contending for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in 2017. The action will take off in February as the season opener in Abu Dhabi celebrates a landmark 75th race.
Looking to shake up the standings in 2017's Red Bull Air Race World Championship will be two new Master Class pilots with exceptional experience in high-speed, low-altitude flying: Cristian Bolton of Chile and Mikael "Mika" Brageot of France. At eight stops in seven countries, Cristian Bolton Racing and Brageot's Breitling Racing Team will face off against 12 other top teams to earn points toward the official World Championship sanctioned by the global governing body, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.
Both of the newcomers hold the required Master Class Super License and have previously earned season podiums in the Challenger Class, an element of the Red Bull Air Race that gives the next generation of pilots the chance to develop their skills in actual racing conditions. Bolton marked a motorsport first when he competed in the final two Master Class races of 2016 (Indianapolis and Las Vegas, USA) as a standby pilot, making him the first ever from Chile to fly for World Championship points. The former Lieutenant Colonel in the Chilean Air Force is thrilled to now be confirmed as an official member of the Master Class going forward.
"We are really excited for 2017, though you might say that for us, our season started back in Indianapolis, because everything since then has been a good learning curve," says Bolton, who in addition to racing is ranked as Chile's top aerobatic pilot by the FAI and is one of the leading aerobatic performers in all of Latin America. "The way we look at it, our 'warm-up' races are over, and now we are focused to continue learning and win races! We are a great team and fully dedicated to eventually becoming the best, and to be the fastest adversary possible to the other teams at every race."
The new pilots speak about 2017
Brageot, who was 2015's Challenger Cup champion, also has valuable experience flying a Master Class raceplane, thanks to his pioneering participation in the Master Mentoring Program. Introduced in 2016, it enabled him to benefit from firsthand mentoring by former World Champion Nigel Lamb in the British pilot's final season before retirement – including training flights in Lamb's high-performance MXS-R through the series' racetracks worldwide.
"I was right there, backstage, so to speak, and able to watch the whole Master Class team process. I learned a lot, race after race," explains Brageot, who has a stellar background as a gold-medal-winning pilot at the highest level of aerobatic competition. "I would really like to give the best first impression that I can at the season opener. My other objective is to keep learning, until someday, hopefully, I win the Red Bull Air Race World Championship."
Bolton, Brageot and the entire Master Class field – including reigning champion Matthias Dolderer of Germany – will kick off their quest for the 2017 Red Bull Air Race title as the season opener in Abu Dhabi celebrates the landmark 75th World Championship race on 10-11 February 2017.
2017 Master Class Pilots
Cristian Bolton (CHI)
Mikael "Mika" Brageot (FRA)
Kirby Chambliss (USA)
Matthias Dolderer (GER)
Michael Goulian (USA)
Matt Hall (AUS)
Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA)
Petr Kopfstein (CZE)
François Le Vot (FRA)
Pete McLeod (CAN)
Yoshihide Muroya (JPN)
Peter Podlunšek (SLO)
Martin Šonka (CZE)
Juan Velarde (ESP)