In only his third race in the Challenger Cup, Kevin Coleman is already sitting on top of the leaderboard with three second-place trophies sitting on his shelf at home. The American pilot has been labelled a prodigy and appears to be exceeding expectations with a string of podium results under his belt in his inaugural season.
In Coleman's first race, he wowed the crowds and race experts with a second place, finishing just 0.637s behind experienced Swedish Challenger pilot Daniel Ryfa. Coleman then went on to repeat his podium success in both Spielberg and Chiba. So what's the US pilot's secret? How has this 26-year-old stormed his way to the top of the Challenger Class standings? The answer could be practise, practise, and more practise. "I'm very lucky, I have a 330LX [the raceplane used in the Challenger Cup] at home, so I've been getting used to the way it flies and handles as well as pulling high G in it," explained Coleman.
The Challenger also has the advantage of being friends with the other American pilots – two-time title winner Kirby Chambliss, and race winner Michael Goulian. When not racing the three pilots often display at airshows and can cross paths. "I've been leaning a lot on the Master Class pilots for knowledge – my goal is to be in the Master Class," explains Coleman.
At the start of the 2016 season, Coleman stated that he was happy to be part of the Red Bull Air Race and that his strategy was a case of just "... looking to fly as good as I can. I'm not worried about winning that much." But after a hat-trick of top two finishes from Abu Dhabi to Chiba, Coleman has reassessed, and set his sights that much higher – the win.
To become the Challenger Class Champion, the pilots have to secure one of only six places in the winner-takes-all finale in Las Vegas. All eight pilots have their three best results taken into account and the top six will battle it out for the title in October. That is now Coleman's goal. "It feels great to be leading the standings and I'm closer to being locked in for Las Vegas. Three races and three second places – I'm happy with that," he said after Chiba. "I hope I can keep knocking on the door, every Challenger Class pilot could win at any time so it's a tough competition," he concluded.
See the pilots go all-out as the Red Bull Air Race calendar approaches its mid-season race in Budapest, Hungary on 16-17 July. Tickets on sale now!