Crowds packed the Liechtenstein capital of Vaduz on Friday and Saturday for the home stop of the Drone Champions League, where the season’s hottest rivalry only intensified. The penultimate stop of the World Championship of professional drone racing saw defending two-time titleholders XBlades of Great Britain take a pair of wins, turning the tables on their toughest adversaries, Denmark’s APEX Racing, who had swept the previous event in Italy. But with the Danes staying close in the points, the battle for the crown will go right down to the season finale.
- Complete with a Drone Village activity hub, the Drone Prix Liechtenstein attracted fans and families who made it what is believed to be one of the biggest international events ever held in the country. DCL had raced in Vaduz previously in 2017, but this year the track that weaves between Liechtenstein’s Parliament and government buildings was even more difficult as the LED-lit drones from eight teams raced at top speeds of 160 km/h.
- The shocks started even before the teams took the stage. The starting order of Race Day 1 is decided by online Qualifying via DCL – The Game, and Britain’s XBlades Racing, hoping to wrap up their third consecutive World Championship in Vaduz, came out strong to top the timesheet. But Korea’s Veloce Racing purposely finished last in Qualifying. Their tactic: To face XBlades in the first round and minimize their opportunity for points.
- When Friday’s race took off, Veloce’s gamble backfired, as XBlades swept them aside on the way to a revenge match in the Grand Final. There, the British team met their biggest rivals for the 2019 crown, Denmark’s APEX Racing, who had beaten XBlades in both Grand Finals at Drone Prix Turin. It was neck-and-neck until the final Big Heat, where eight drones flashed through the gates, XBlades claimed the win. Russia’s Drone Sports finished third.
- Also on Friday: Swiss pilots Michael Isler, Luginbuehl Pascal, Raphael Straehl and Serafin Straehl secured their spots on the wildcard McDonald’s Drone Team. Shortly afterward, in the Quarter Finals of the race they stunned the USA’s Quad Force One, knocking out the struggling powerhouse and advancing to the Semi-Finals for a top four finish.
- On Saturday, Veloce redeemed themselves with a third place result, but the big news was the fourth consecutive Grand Final between XBlades and APEX. With their confidence restored, the double champions from Britain dominated the individual heats and then clinched their Liechtenstein sweep in perhaps the most thrilling Big Heat so far this season.
- “The penultimate race of the 2019 season was always going to be an exciting one, as the teams battled to secure maximum points,” said DCL’s founder and CEO, Herbert Weirather. “The excitement was matched by the fantastic location – thank you to Liechtenstein and the municipality of Vaduz for helping to make the event a success.”
- Now, with only the season finale left, XBlades Racing clutches the top of the leaderboard with 1,340 points, but APEX is just 240 points behind, and with 500 points still on offer, the Danes remain a threat to the British hat-trick. On paper, Drone Sports and Veloce are also still in the fight, and both will certainly be mixing it up for the overall podium.
- The Drone Champions League is the recognized championship for professional drone racing teams.Since 2016, DCL has brought together the planet’s best drone pilots, who compete on eight international teams in spectacular settings globally. Each DCL race is broadcast live, worldwide on TV and online. Currently available in demo phase, DCL – The Game will be launched on January 28, 2020. (www.dcl.aero)
See the final showdown for the 2019 title when the Drone Champions League returns to the spectacular salt mine of Salina Turda, Romania on 6-7 December. For all the DCL updates and to follow the action live: www.dcl.aero
Tina Weirather, Olympic Bronze Medalist, World Cup Crystal Globe winner (Super-G):
“It’s great to be here in Vaduz, my home town. I think all of Liechtenstein is here today, and also some Swiss and Austrians. The Drone Champions League was here two years ago, and this time it’s even more amazing, because there’s even more people and… everyone is even more into it. I think the Drone Champions League is really interesting because it’s the first sport that you can play virtual and also in reality. When you see what the gamers can do, it’s crazy. Their reaction time is so fast. I think I have pretty fast reactions too, but this is a whole different level, and it’s fascinating.”
Gary Kent, XBlades Racing (GBR):
“This one is pretty special. The people here in Liechtenstein, they turn out massively and support the whole event. It’s massively important in terms of the title race. It puts us a good chunk of points ahead of APEX, but… you ask any pilot, and they’ll tell you anything can happen in drone racing. In Romania we could go out in the first round against any of the teams. They’re all fantastic, world-class pilots, so you can never back off. You’ve always got to do your best, and then hope your best is enough.”
Timothy Trowbridge, APEX Racing (DEN):
“Liechtenstein has been absolutely amazing. We’ve been here two years ago, and it’s the same story again. Amazing crowds, really good emotions, and it’s really fun to race here. It sucks that we didn’t get first place this time, but I’m still happy with the performance of our team. It’s unfortunate that XBlades has an even bigger gap on us now, so we have to go all-in in Romania.”
Minchan Kim, Veloce Racing (KOR):
“This was a really great race, but we had to use a throttle limit, a power limit, and we hadn’t prepared it in Korea. So we were just trying to set it up here. But we know what we have to prepare, so I think the next race will be really good. People here have been very kind, and this race was amazing. The organizer was really awesome, too. I want to come back and race in Vaduz again.”
Results, 18 October 2019, Drone Prix Liechtenstein:1. XBlades Racing (GBR) 250 points, 2. APEX Racing (DEN) 220 pts, 3. Drone Sports (RUS) 200 pts, 4. McDonald’s Drone Team (SUI) 150 pts, 5. Veloce Racing (KOR) 80 pts, 6. DMM RAIDEN RACING (JPN) 0, 7. Quad Force One (USA) 0, 8. China Dragons (CHN) 0
Results, 19 October 2019, Drone Prix Liechtenstein 2019:1. XBlades Racing (GBR) 250 points, 2. APEX Racing (DEN) 220 pts, 3. Veloce Racing (KOR) 200 pts, 4. Drone Sports (RUS) 150 pts, 5. McDonald’s Drone Team (SUI) 80 pts, 6. China Dragons (CHN) 0, 7. DMM RAIDEN RACING (JPN) 0, 8. Quad Force One (USA) 0.
2019 DCL Standings after three stops:1. XBlades Racing (GBR) 1,340 points, 2. APEX Racing (DEN) 1,100 pts, 3. Drone Sports (RUS) 870 pts, 4. Veloce Racing (KOR) 840 pts, 5. McDonald’s Drone Team (SUI) 230 pts, 6. Quad Force One (USA) 220 pts, 7. China Dragons (CHN) 200 pts, 8. DMM RAIDEN RACING (JPN) 0