French Pilot Becomes First Woman In Red Bull Air Race

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This year’s Red Bull Air Race series, slated to begin in March, will have a female competitor for the first time. Mélanie Astles, a five-time French aerobatic champion, is among the three new contenders in the eight-pilot field who will vie for the championship when the race launches in at its traditional starting point in Abu Dhabi. Astles enters the race with newcomers Ben Murphy, leader of the Royal Air Force display team, and Kevin Coleman, a member of the U.S. Advanced Aerobatic Team. “I will mostly enjoy the tremendous opportunity of sharing my passion with the crowds. I can’t hide the fact that for me it’s a real dream to join the 2016 Challenger Cup, I’m really looking forward to that great challenge,” Astles said.

Eight stops around the world are on the calendar this year, including Austria, Japan, Hungary, Great Britain and Germany. The race will make two stops in the U.S. again this year to end the series. One will be in Indianapolis Oct. 1-2, followed by the final race in Las Vegas Oct. 15-16. Each contest features courses with tight pylon turns, with pilots reaching speeds up to 200 knots and forces up to 10 Gs. Britain's Paul Bonhomme won a third series championship in October after finishing in second place during the final race of 2015 in Las Vegas.