The 2014 WWL racing season started during July in Norway with a qualifying race designed to recruit new talent for the 3rd WWL China Grand Prix. After an intense competition, 20 athletes qualified to join the six top finishers from the 2013 Grand Prix, whose placement pre-qualified them for the 2014 race.
The 26 competitors represented more than 10 different countries, including France, Norway, UK, Australia, South Africa, Brazil and the USA, among others. Based on the experience of the first two races, the competition rules and the flying routes were adjusted in order to make the event more appealing and competitive.
As a result, the 2014 China Grand Prix was not only the world’s top wingsuit race, it was also a top-tier event in the whole field of extreme sports.
South African Julian Boulle won the race with a perfect final flight that bested 2013 champion Jhonathan Florez of Colombia by almost a half-second. Boulle led from start to finish, and made such a good start for the first time during the race that Chief Judge Anne Helliwell reviewed the video to make sure he didn’t leave too soon.
“Julian had slow starts in his previous head-to-head races,” explained race director Iiro Seppanen, “so everyone was surprised when he got off so well. He had a perfect launch.”
Seppanen said he was not surprised that the final race came down to Boulle and Florez because their presence reinforced a theme that had become obvious as this year’s Grand Prix went on.
“Julian was the 2012 champion and Jhonathan was the 2013 champion,” Seppanen said, “and it’s no accident that the pilots who practice the most finish in the top spots.”
The consolation race for third place between Norwegian Espen Fadnes and American Noah Bahnson was won by Fadnes by less than 2/100th of a second, an almost photo finish that underscored just how tight the competition was this year.
In addition to the semifinal and final races, spectators and TV viewers were treated to the woman’s final, won by Ellen Brennan over Melissa Pemberton, and two spectacular demonstration flights consisting of three- and five- pilot formation flights down the head- to-head course that showcased the exceptional flying skills of the WWL athletes.
The finals generated record TV ratings, making more than 390,000,000 media impressions in greater China for the 16 networks that carried the action live – and there were so many spectators scattered all over Tianmen Mountain that their cell phones temporarily crashed the live-feed internet broadcast.
“All in all, it was an incredible race,” said Seppanen. “We are delighted with the results and pleased that we could present such amazing entertainment to the people of China.”
|2014 China Grand Prix Results|
|1||Julian Boulle||South Africa||Tony Suit|
|2||Jhonathan Florez||Colombia||Tony Suit|
|4||Noah Bahnson||USA||Tony Suit|