A great start to Mel’s racing season… Previous item British Unlimited Champion ! Next item Mel gets us up to speed...

A great start to Mel’s racing season…

We managed to catch up with Melanie 3 months after our last newsletter and a lot has been happening. First and foremost there was the first race of the Red Bull Air Race season in Abu Dhabi.

Melanie, Abu Dhabi… first race of the season… how did that go?

The first race of the season is always an important one, it’s quite a test for us as we have not flown around a track for long while. Personally I had not flown on a circuit for six months. Needless to say, I was extremely motivated and happy to get back into it. The training went very well, whether in practice or Qualifying. Conditions were ideal for the race. The level of the challengers is very high, but the team spirit as always is there, despite the competition. This season, three newcomers are joining the Challenger team. In practice and in Qualifying, I took to the track with a lot of respect and used a very progressive method. I had kept the rest for race day and decided to go full power then.

So you were happy about the Free Practice and qualifying sessions… what about the race?

I flew in third position out of 6, which is good. I flew a very good first lap, with a great entry speed, the light was green, but I over-G’d between Gates 6 and 7, thus receiving a one second penalty. But even with the penalty, I was still ½ second off the pace, and made up for the time on my second lap, putting me in first position at that point. Without the penalty, it would have been a sensational time. I knew that would put a lot of pressure on Florian Berger, our main target because he is always faster! I know that I need to improve on speed to beat him. It would be good if on subsequent races, I could fly after him. Anyway, I am very pleased with my second place. This was my first podium since October 2017, when I was 1st at Indianapolis. I think I showed I am part of the game. The Abu Dhabi race has been a great launchpad of this season. My next RBAR will be on 15-16 June in Kazan, Russia.

A very good start to the season! What have you been doing since you got back from Abu Dhabi?

Training, training and more training in preparation for the aerobatics competitions and races to come later this year, as well as running my company AirMel. Most weekends I am at Le Castellet or Valréas, training with my coach Pierre Varloteaux, who is very pleased with my progress. I am flying a lot better than last year and Pierre has been key in helping me focus on my precision and concentration. It’s a fantastic feeling to know that you are doing things right and making progress.

You have also been seen at a few events as well. Can you tell us a bit more?

On March 2, I was invited by 3y Technology at Le Castellet to live another of my dreams, driving a racing car. A big thank you to them to have given me the opportunity to drive the wonderful BMW M4 GT4. After a session on the 3y simulator, I had the great pleasure to drive the GT4 on the circuit, with my friend Philippe Chatelet. Great to benefit from the competence of such a talented coach. And thank you for the trust. I know now that one day, I might fulfil my secret dream of racing a car.
On 28 March, together with other sportspeople, I was invited in Paris for a great event by Boris Derichebourg, President of the Derichebourg Group. It was a presentation and networking evening, giving us the opportunity to meet major company and business managers.

You were also invited on a new local web TV channel and another local event… what was that about?

As you know, I have lived in the Alpilles area for over 2 years, which is a region I love, and where I will probably settle down for good. Recently a web TV called Alpilles TV was created, and I was flattered to be asked to be their “marraine” for their launch on 22 March at Saint Remy de Provence.
In March also, I was invited by the association Marseille Plus, for an award together with other local personalities influential in Marseille and its surroundings. I am very honoured to have been named as ambassador for the town of Marseille.

I understand you had a few health problems as well… how did that affect you?

Yes, I was unable to train or fly due to illness for some time. This meant that unfortunately I was not able to go to the selection competition for a place in the French aerobatic team, which will attend the Unlimited Aerobatics World Championship in Chateauroux in August. Therefore, sadly I am not selected to compete for France.

Back to the good news as I think you have a new partner has joined the team. Is that so?

I am pleased to announce a new partner has joined my team, to help me continue to live my dream: Farman by Galilé. Thank you for your trust and your vision, which help me to believe in my potential and raise my confidence.

We have also noticed that there have been some changes to your Extra 330SC plane.

Yes, I worked on a new design for my plane and it was with a big smile that I was able to reveal the new livery of my Extra 330, featuring my longtime supporters ESAF, ATM, BMW and my new sponsors Michelin, Pima Air & Space Museum, Alsimflight and Farman by Galilé.
I officially presented my “new” plane during the 1st BMW MTown Festival, at the Nevers Magny-Cours race track. Despite the very bad weather, I was able to perform two demonstration flights to show the new livery. I would like to thank Aircraftstudiodesign and Design Covering for their great work on my plane.

So as summer gets ever closer, is it still Smile On for you?

Definitely, plenty of news and projects to come. 2019 is going to be a great year for me and my team… so definitely a big…

Smoke on… smile on!