Emotion ran deep on December 6-7 as Britain’s XBlades Racing captured their third consecutive season triumph in the Drone Champions League, the World Championship for professional drone racing teams, at the 2019 finale in Salina Turda, Romania. In a salt mine 150 meters below the surface, the British team clinched the crown on the first day of racing. But the overall season performance of two DCL newcomers – Denmark’s APEX Racing in second and Russia’s Drone Sports in third – as well as fourth-place Veloce Racing of Korea, signaled that a revolution may be brewing for 2020. Luke Bannister and Brett Collis of XBlades tied for Pilot of the Year.
Salina Turda, ROMANIA
- The setting of the final stop of the 2019 DCL season was an ancient salt mine that is now home to a vast amusement park. Across three laps, the LED-lit drones clashed head-to-head at 160km/h: wall riding the vertical face, threading the legs of a Ferris wheel and plunging to the mine floor. A crash or collision could change a lead to a Did Not Finish in a heartbeat.
- While it was the third time the DCL had stopped at Salina Turda, never had the stakes been so high. At the top of the table, XBlades were determined to finish off their challengers and make drone racing history with the hat-trick. But APEX Racing stood in the way, and the Danes had already proven that they had the goods by sweeping the British team at 2019’s second stop.
- With everything on the line, XBlades were expected to come out charging, but Qualifying, which takes place via DCL – The Game, raised a question mark. Korea’s Veloce Racing took the top spot, followed by APEX Racing. Were the third-place Brits slipping at the wrong moment?
- All doubts evaporated in Friday’s race. XBlades were relentless and secured the title by beating APEX 4 to 1 in the Semi-Finals, then confirmed their supremacy by winning the day’s Grand Final against Veloce, 4 to 2. The podium for the race: 1) XBlades, 2) Veloce, 3) APEX.
- On Saturday it was gloves off for the remaining spots on the overall podium. APEX clinched second overall with relative ease, while in a tense tiebreaker that counted individual pilot finishes, Drone Sports edged out Veloce for third by just a single point.
- Salina Turda saved the best for last, as the honor of winning Saturday’s race came down to XBlades and APEX. When the flying was over, the teams were tied, and a countback of pilot finishing points gave the day’s victory to APEX, with XBlades second and Drone Sports third.
- The pilots flying for XBlades in Salina Turda were Luke Bannister, Brett Collis, Gary Kent and Killian Rousseau. Bannister is now a DCL Champion for the fourth time running, as the teenager won the inaugural 2016 season for XBlades, which consisted of two individual races. Bannister and Collis additionally shared the 2019 Pilot of the Year award, with 21 heat wins each.
- Adding their own flair to the Drone Prix Salina Turda were Wild Prop, a wildcard team made up primarily of international freestyle stars who trained on DCL – The Game to get familiar with racing. Andres Aguilera (ESP), Benoit Finck (FRA), Tommy Tibajia (USA) and Vince Irie (NED) delivered a respectable performance and treated spectators to some freestyle flying as well.
- Since 2016, DCL has brought together the planet’s best drone pilots, who compete on eight international teams in spectacular settings globally. Each race is broadcast live, worldwide on TV and online. Anyone can battle for a place in the DCL Draft Selection by playing DCL – The Game.
The new Drone Champions League calendar will be announced in 2020. Keep up with the DCL all year long at www.dcl.aero and DCL social channels.
Member of the 2019 DCL champion team XBlades Racing (GBR) and tied for Pilot of the Year:
“Amazing. You could maybe win [the championship] once by fluke, but three times in a row shows that we continue to be the best, and we proved it once again. We had some amazing battles, amazing races. The Big Heats are insane.”
Member of the 2019 DCL champion team XBlades Racing (GBR) and tied for Pilot of the Year
“It’s been amazing to be on top and stay on top for so long. Along with my teammates, we’ve all put in a lot of effort, and I’m super happy that we managed to do it again.”
Freestyle drone star and member of the Wild Prop international wildcard team
“DCL is truly about the racing, the pilots and the epic courses. And this is probably one of the most epic courses I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Results, 6 December 2019, Drone Prix Salina Turda: 1. XBlades Racing (GBR) 250 points, 2. Veloce Racing (KOR) 220 pts, 3. APEX Racing (DEN) 200 pts, 4. Drone Sports (RUS) 150 pts, 5. China Dragons (CHN) 80 pts, 6. DMM RAIDEN RACING (JPN) 0, 7. Wild Prop (INT) 0, 8. Quad Force One (USA) 0.
Results, 7 December 2019, Drone Prix Salina Turda: 1. APEX Racing (DEN) 250 points, 2. XBlades Racing (GBR) 220 pts, 3. Drone Sports (RUS) 200 pts, 4. Veloce Racing (KOR) 150 pts, 5. China Dragons (CHN) 80 pts, 6. DMM RAIDEN RACING (JPN) 0, 7. Quad Force One (USA) 0, 8. Wind Prop (INT) 0
Final Standings, Drone Champions League 2019: 1. XBlades Racing (GBR) 1,810 points, 2. APEX Racing (DEN) 1,550 pts, 3. Drone Sports (RUS) 1,220 pts, 4. Veloce Racing (KOR) 1,210 pts, 5. China Dragons (CHN) 360 pts, 6. Quad Force One (USA) 220 pts, 7. DMM RAIDEN RACING (JPN) 0
Drone Champions League Calendar 2019
22-24 February: Draft selection, Cannes, France
29-30 March: Laax, Switzerland
12-13 July: Turin, Italy
18-19 October: Vaduz, Liechtenstein
6-7 December: Salina Turda, Romania
About the Drone Champions League
The Drone Champions League (DCL) is the recognized championship for professional drone racing teams: an innovative race series that blurs the lines between virtual and reality to serve up a new era of sports entertainment. Since 2016 the DCL has drawn the world’s best drone pilots, who qualify for each race in DCL The Game and then go on to compete on eight international teams in some of the world’s most spectacular real-life settings, from buzzing global capitals to surreal natural wonders.
Each DCL race is broadcast live, worldwide on TV and also online. From the Great Wall of China to the Champs-Elysées – where 180,000 spectators lined the boulevard – the LED-lit racing drones dart through the custom tracks head-to-head, flashing by fans at speeds of more than 160 km/h as the pilots fly them using virtual reality goggles. First to the finish wins, and with margins breathtakingly tight, contact happens. The daring maneuvers of bold pilots can boost drones to victory or send them tumbling.
DCL – The Game offers complete engagement with the sport and a high-speed experience in your own home. Players of all experience levels fly 27 drone racing tracks, including 1:1 virtual replicas of the original DCL tracks, with contenders in the highest mode battling for places in the actual DCL Draft Selection, allowing players from the game to be recruited in to the real-life series. DCL – The Game will be launched on January 28, 2020.