Mel gets us up to speed with the new season Previous item A great start to Mel’s... Next item Autumn, start of the...

Mel gets us up to speed with the new season

Winter is still here but down time is over… the Red Bull Air Race is already back after a short winter break! Let’s have a quick catch up with Mélanie as she prepares for the first race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

Mélanie, we have not heard from you since before Christmas… have you been busy?

Yes indeed! November was especially busy. I had the privilege to be invited to give a keynote speech by Scott Marchand, Director Collection and Aircraft Restoration, at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona. The Pima museum is one of the largest aircraft museums in the world with around 350 aircraft and is a truly amazing place. I just want to say thank you to everyone who welcomed me there, and especially Scott, who also talked about the Great Paper Airplane story launched by Pima. I invite everyone to watch the video on YouTube.

Later that month, I gave another keynote speech in Monaco at the Day One forum. The theme was global digital development, with worldwide figures and organisations talking about their positive impact and view on tomorrow’s world, the aim being to transform their vision into action. I was asked to talk about women, will and passion and of course that suited me down to the ground. I am always happy to share my message of passion and determination.

We heard that you were into gaming? What is that about?

I was honoured to be asked by Bandai Namco to become ambassador for Ace Combat 7, the new version of the fighter simulator game that has been around for 25 years! This latest version of the saga is fantastic to play, and the VR is the best I have seen. The sensations are very close to reality, everything is there except for the G forces! I honestly really enjoyed myself, so to all my gaming fans… go check it out!

TF1 and M6 both filmed me testing the game. The M6 report was broadcast within the evening news on M6 on 10 January. The TF1 shoot is available on Youtube.

What about your training? Did you take a break?

Hardly… I continued my physical training with Romain Guillot, who is really pleased with my progress, and I am happy to say that I have been flying a lot in my Extra 330SC at Visan and Le Castellet to train for the upcoming air race season and also for the World Aerobatics Championship at Chateauroux in August. I am very lucky to have Pierre Varloteaux training me. His experience has helped me progress so much over the past few months.

Christmas brought a new addition to Team Melanie Astles. Can you tell us more?

Of course! I am delighted to announce that Victoria joined the team as my Communications Manager just before Christmas, and we have some super projects for this year. So with André, Martine, Nick, Pierre, Romain, and now Victoria, the foundations are set for a really strong team and that is helping me focus more on what I need to do to win. It’s fantastic to know that I have a solid team supporting me. It’s a great confidence builder.

You also turned up at Cannes in the New year… but not for a race this time.

Yes, BMW organised a two day event called Fast Start at Cannes-Mandelieu Airport. They were presenting the new BMW range to their sales network, giving them the chance to drive the cars both on-track and off-road workshops. I got the chance to learn to drift, which was really fun. I brought “baby Mel”, a scale model of my BMW Extra 330SC plane and it was displayed in the hangar. I want to thank BMW for their ongoing support; it is always a real privilege to take part in these events.

Going into the first Red Bull Air race of the season, how are you feeling?

I’m feeling great actually. Physically I am in great shape and I have been flying regularly. As I mentioned, my flying has improved a lot over the past few months and that has built my confidence. My precision and concentration during aerobatics are much more consistent and that will help me a lot during the racing.

That’s fantastic! What are your hopes for Abu Dhabi?

I want to win of course, which never changes. That is my driving force. But the competition will be tough. All the big players in the Challenger Cup are competing there I am going to have to push the limits. But I am happy with my flying, a lot more than last year, so I know I have a chance. I will fly 5 races this year…no more 4th places… I am aiming for the top!

Thank you Melanie, we look forward to the first race on the 8th and 9th February in Abu Dhabi. Anything else you would like to add?

To all my fans and my sponsors, I want to wish a Happy New year while it’s still time and thank you for your support; It means so much to me. I am really focussed on winning for you all and with that in mind…

Smoke on… smile on!