The 2015 WWL racing season started during July in Norway with a qualifying race designed to recruit new talent for the 4rd WWL China Grand Prix. After an intense competition, 16 athletes qualified to join the world’s number 1 wingsuit race.
The 16 competitors represented almost 10 different countries, including France, Norway, UK, Australia, South Africa, Brazil and the USA, among others. Based on the experience of the first three races, the competition rules and the flying routes were optimized for head-to-head racing format.
As expected, Skydive Dubai team dominated the tournament Finals by taking home both Gold and Silver medals. Noah Bahnson became the new WWL China Grand Prix champion and Julian Boulle had to settle for Silver Medal this year. Newcomers Nate Jones and Jarno Cordia gave WWL veterans a run for their money, but in the end, the experience and consistency of Noah and Julian helped them to secure two highest positions on our podium.
“Over the last few years Noah has had ‘competition-jitters’ and he does not usually sleep much in China” laughed race director Iiro Seppanen, “it was nice to see how Noah was able to perform to his full potential”
Pilots made over 200 BASE-jumps during the race week and had ZERO reported injuries.
|1||15||33.726||0.000||JONES Nathan||AUS||PHOENIX FLY|
|2||8||33.804||+0.078||CORDIA Jarno||NED||PHOENIX FLY|
There was plenty of action and a few surprises as the first two rounds of racing were completed as scheduled on Saturday, setting the scene for a semifinal showdown between two WWL veterans and two WWL newcomers.
Top seed Noah Bahnson will face fourth seed Jarno Cordia in one semifinal; second seed Julian Boulle will fly against sixth seed Nathan Jones in the other.
“Everyone expected Julian and Noah to be there,” said WWL president Iiro Seppanen. “but no one expected Jarno and Nate to get this far – but they earned it so here we are and, once again, on paper we should see a Julian-Noah final, but the new guys may surprise us all again.”
1st round results:
The semifinals also represent a manufacturer’s matchup that flips the old versus new dynamic: WWL newcomers Cordia and Jones fly suits built by the Phoenix-Fly, the oldest company on the mountain; WWL old guns Bahnson and Boulle wear Squirrel, the newest kid on the block. The all-PF-Squirrel final day is another surprise as well.
“Everyone expected the long-anticipated showdown between manufacturers to be PF and TonySuits,” said Seppanen, “but Squirrel really made its case this year.”
The Round of 16 went mostly as expected, but there were a few surprises. Missing from the final day of racing will Luka Fornazaric, whose dominant performance at the Voss qualifier had made him a pre-race favorite along with Bahnson and Boulle. Luka flew faster than Espen Fadnes in their Round of 16 heat, but his speed came at a price; he opened too low and was disqualified because his parachute ride was too short. Espen, however, narrowly avoided the same fate; he had to fly in brakes all the way down to slow his canopy descent, and he paid the price with a hard landing.
No one expected Sebastian Alvarez to land in the trees, either, but when he experienced line twists after also opening low, he didn’t have time to clear them before hitting thick vegetation near the landing area. Sebastian was not injured but, like Luka, he flew faster than Rex Pemberton but was disqualified because his parachute ride was too short.
One of the more anticipated heats was between fourth seed Jarno Cordia against 13th seed Jason Moledzki. Both were highly experienced skydivers with extensive skydiving competition experience, but Jarno ended up beating Jason by the biggest margin in the Round of 16: 1.397 seconds.
Another matchup that drew attention was the heat between best friends Nathan Jones and Sam Hardy. The outcome reflected their seeding; sixth seed Nathan prevailed by .665 seconds over 11th seed Sam. Nathan’s victory cost him a yellow-card warning for a short parachute ride that almost resulted in a disqualification. If he gets another yellow card, he will be disqualified.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the quarterfinals was that two of the four races ended with the disqualification of one racer. Rex Pemberton DQed for opening too low in his race against top seed Bahnson and Carson Klein repeated his 2014 mistake by opening too low again – but this time it didn’t affect his placement because Nathan Jones beat him anyway.
In the two quarterfinal races without DQs, Julian beat Espen by a convincing .673 seconds and Jarno bested Mike by almost a second.
“None of the low-pull disqualifications was dangerous enough to scare us,” Seppanen said, “but as Sebastian’s landing showed, we have those rules for a reason – the valley is too narrow and the consequences too extreme to pull low.”
Indeed, the live TV coverage was ended after Sebastian’s mishap because the race was suspended until the rescue team could retrieve him. Seppanen said the quarterfinals were taped, however, and would be broadcast sometime on Sunday.
Liks to live broadcast:
The live will start at 12:30 pm (UTC +8h) on October 17 and 18
The game is on!
The weather gods kept smiling as the athletes were again greeted by perfect skies, this time for the seeding round and the official start of the 2015 WWL China Grand Prix. The television gods also smiled, with Hunan TV broadcasting the second round live throughout China due to increasing viewer interest.
All 16 wingsuit pilots made two flights to determine the initial pairings for Saturday’s Round of 16. Pre-race favorite Noah Bahnson (Squirrel) again clocked the fastest run, hitting 32.693 seconds on his best flight, more than four seconds faster than Tilen Guzelkj (Phoenix-Fly), the pilot he’ll face in the Round of 16.
|Rank||Num||Gap||Name||Nat||Club||Run T 1||Run T 2|
|4||8||+0.382||CORDIA Jarno||NED||PHOENIX FLY||33.075||33.437|
|6||15||+0.694||JONES Nathan||AUS||PHOENIX FLY||33.577||33.387|
|7||2||+0.839||FADNES Espen||NOR||TONY SUIT||33.707||33.532|
|9||4||+1.048||PEMBERTON Rex||AUS||TONY SUIT||33.741||Disqualified|
|10||11||+1.051||FORNAZARIC Luka||SLO||PHOENIX FLY||33.744||34.115|
|11||13||+1.182||HARDY Sam||GBR||PHOENIX FLY||34.358||33.875|
|13||7||+1.749||MOLEDZKI Jason||CAN||PHOENIX FLY||34.585||34.442|
|14||6||+2.083||PECNIK Robert||CRO||PHOENIX FLY||34.776||35.224|
|15||12||+2.555||CORDEIRO Yuri||BRA||PHOENIX FLY||35.248||35.538|
|16||5||+4.122||GUZELJ Tilen||SLO||PHOENIX FLY||Disqualified||36.815|
The rest of the Round of 16 race bracket looks like this:
• (2) Julian Boulle (Squirrel) v. (15) Yuri Codeiro (Squirrel).
• (3) Carson Klein (Squirrel) v. (14) Robert Pecnik (Phoenix-Fly)
• (4) Jarno Cordia (Phoenix-Fly) v. (13) Jason Moledzki (Phoenix-Fly)
• (5) Mike Swanson (Squirrel) v. (12) Vincent Descols (Squirrel)
• (6) Nathan Jones (Phoenix-Fly) v. (11) Sam Hardy (Squirrel)
• (7) Espen Fadnes (TonySuits) v. (10) Luka Fornazaric (Phoenix-Fly)
• (8) Sebastian Alvarez (Squirrel) v. (9) Rex Pemberton (TonySuits)
WWL president Iiro Seppanen says the seeding results bode well for an exciting race for two main reasons: the “race-within-a-race” between the manufacturers and their respective pilots; and the various Round of 16 pairings, which he called “quite interesting.”
“First, when you look at the results, you’ll see that rankings have changed dramatically since the qualifier in Voss,” Seppanen said. “The Phoenix-Fly guys were all very strong in Voss but Squirrel took five of the top eight seeds here. The PF suits flew very fast but Voss was a shorter course and it seems that maybe they don’t glide as well compared to the other suits, at least from the seeding results. But we will find out soon whether that is true or not!
“Second, on paper, it doesn’t look like there is much speculation about the first few pairs; the higher seed should win. But this is wingsuit racing and fractions of a second determine who wins and who loses, so a slow exit or a minor mid-course error could knock out even the fastest flyers. Outside of the unexpected, the most interesting matchups are in the middle of the bracket.
“Take number seven Espen versus number ten Luka. Luka was fastest by a lot in Voss and he’s heavier than Espen, but Espen has raced well in all three Grand Prix so that may help him overcome Luka’s advantages. They also have the PF versus Squirrel matchup, too.
“Then there is number Sebastian and number eight Rex Pemberton. They are both accomplished airplane pilots as well as wingsuit flyers and they have the Squirrel-TonySuits rivalry, which is more intense this year due to the last-minute defections of several TonySuits pilots to Team Squirrel.
“Number six Nathan against number 11 Sam is interesting and kind of sad at the same time. Those guys are more like brothers than friends in real life, so for them this is their worst nightmare because instead of meeting later in the race, one of them is going to knock out the other in the first round. They were not very happy when the pairings came out.”
“One of the more intriguing matchups is number five Mike versus number twelve Vincent. They’re both WWL veterans but Mike is extremely consistent and Vincent has not been practicing very much; Mike beat him by more than one second in the seeding round. Vincent can beat anyone on a good day, but if he has an off day, then Mike’s experience and consistency will come into play. This is also one of two Squirrel-on-Squirrel matchups.”
“The next pairing is also very interesting because it pits two of the most accomplished competitive skydivers against each other – number four Jarno against number thirteen Jason, both flying PF. Jason is literally the winningest canopy piloting champion of all time; no one else is even close to the number of world and national titles he’s won. Jarno, on the other hand, is the fastest of the PF guys and is a very successful wingsuit skydiving competitor and race organizer, so it’s going to be a treat to see who has evolved faster in wingsuit BASE racing.
“Then comes number three Carson Klein and number fourteen Robert Pecnik, the other Squirrel versus PF pairing. Carson is one of the dark horse racers because he was disqualified last year so people forget that he clocked the fastest times of the race. Robert, of course, is a legend and a wise and crafty flyer, so he could certainly pull off the upset.
“Julian is a crazy-good competitor and with his longer body should prevail over Yuri – but while he’s obviously flying his new Squirrel suit well, his unfamiliarity with it could result in one of those unexpected finishes because Yuri’s been flying his own Squirrel much longer.
“Finally, Noah has been killing it and Tilen was very slow in the seeding round, but there are two other factors at work here. One, Tilen was DQed on his first run so his time doesn’t reflect his capability because he had to fly carefully to make sure he didn’t DQ the second run and get eliminated from the race before it began. Two, Noah is the fastest, but he doesn’t handle the stress of competition as well as other pilots. Everyone says he’s the most talented pilot here, but at the same time he gets the jitters and has trouble sleeping. He has only slept an hour or two each night, so he’s a very strong candidate to become champion but the big question is: Can he get some rest and concentrate and quit thinking so much about the race?”
The Round of 16 starts Saturday at 12:30 p.m. China time, followed by the quarterfinals. Sunday’s semifinal and final rounds will also start at 12:30 p.m. China time. As always, Hunan TV and its partners will broadcast the race live in its entirety throughout greater China and it will also be live-streamed on the internet.
Third practice day at WWL China Grand Prix
resulted in record times
Noah Bahnson set a new record for our head-to-head course. His second run of the day was timed at 32.563 seconds, followed by Espen Fadnes, Julian Boulle and Luka Fornazaric - all four pilots were able to break into 32 seconds + something benchmark time. Anyone can still win the race - 12 fastest pilots were timed within less than a second from Noah’s fastest time. We will continue with Seeding Round tomorrow and those results will determine pairings for this weekend’s head-to-head tournament.
|Rank||Num||Gap||Name||Nat||Club||Run T 1||Run T 2|
|2||2||+0.138||FADNES Espen||NOR||TONY SUIT||32.701||32.985|
|4||11||+0.403||FORNAZARIC Luka||SLO||PHOENIX FLY||34.784||32.966|
|6||13||+0.659||HARDY Sam||GBR||PHOENIX FLY||33.330||33.222|
|7||8||+0.681||CORDIA Jarno||NED||PHOENIX FLY||33.266||33.244|
|8||7||+0.847||MOLEDZKI Jason||CAN||PHOENIX FLY||34.089||33.410|
|11||4||+0.921||PEMBERTON Rex||AUS||TONY SUIT||33.782||33.484|
|12||15||+0.924||JONES Nathan||AUS||PHOENIX FLY||33.487||33.829|
|13||6||+1.154||PECNIK Robert||CRO||PHOENIX FLY||34.481||33.717|
|15||12||+1.721||CORDEIRO Yuri||BRA||PHOENIX FLY||35.217||34.284|
|16||5||+2.377||GUZELJ Tilen||SLO||PHOENIX FLY||35.323||34.940|
Besides practicing for the Grand Prix, we were fortunate to showcase a friendly "showdown” between Formula 1 legend Mika Hakkinen and Jeb Corliss. Mika drove Mercedes AMG race-car down on the curvy roads of Tianmen Mountain while Jeb flew his Tony Suit to Rendez Vous point in the bottom of the valley. Their demo was witnessed by millions of people and it continues to pave the future for the sport of wintsuit racing. It was such an honor to collaborate with racing legend Mr. Hakkinen who announced his support for WWL - The Formula 1 in the Sky.
Second day of practicing at the WWL China Grand Prix has been very successful as our athletes are getting more familiar with the race track. We have been blessed with good weather: mild winds combined with sunshine and clear skies have allowed our pilots to concentrate fully on training. All athletes have made 5 practice jumps so far and as of now, the fastest recorded time belongs to Noah Bahnson. His third jump of the day stopped the clock at 33.080 seconds.
|Rank||Gap||Name||Nat||Club||Run T 1||Run T 2||Run T 3|
|4||+0.393||FADNES Espen||NOR||TONY SUIT||33.548||35.242||33.473|
|5||+0.396||PEMBERTON Rex||AUS||TONY SUIT||34.212||Disqualified||33.476|
|6||+0.538||CORDIA Jarno||NED||PHOENIX FLY||33.618||34.022||34.256|
|7||+0.619||FORNAZARIC Luka||SLO||PHOENIX FLY||33.699||34.696||34.116|
|8||+0.756||JONES Nathan||AUS||PHOENIX FLY||34.195||34.376||33.836|
|9||+0.968||MOLEDZKI Jason||CAN||PHOENIX FLY||35.024||34.359||34.048|
|13||+1.396||PECNIK Robert||CRO||PHOENIX FLY||35.508||35.088||34.476|
|14||+1.488||CORDEIRO Yuri||BRA||PHOENIX FLY||34.568||35.335||34.572|
|15||+1.623||HARDY Sam||GBR||PHOENIX FLY||34.703||34.961||34.954|
|16||+2.453||GUZELJ Tilen||SLO||PHOENIX FLY||35.533||35.707||35.662|
As a safety measure, all pilots are required to have at least 40 seconds canopy ride. If their canopy time is under 40 seconds, but over 35 seconds, they will get a warning. Two warnings will result to automatic disqualification from the race. A handful of pilots have had canopy rides shorter than 40 seconds, but we will not enforce those rules until the beginning of the beginning of Grand Prix. Until then, they will continue to find tune their angle and glide for optimal results.
We will continue to practice tomorrow afternoon, after a showdown between Jeb Corliss and two-time Formula 1 champion Mika Hakkinen. Their friendly contest will be broadcasted LIVE on Internet at 12:30pm (Chinese time) via LeTV: http://travel.letv.com/izt/amgyzfx/index.html
The practice sessions for the 2015 WWL China Grand Prix started today. Fifteen wingsuit pilots made two jumps each and the fastest time was recorded by Carson Klein (33.401 seconds), followed by Noah Bahnson (33.481) and Julian Boulle (33.540). The only person who was not able to practice today was Espen Fadnes because the airline lost his luggage, including his rig and all of his wingsuits. Luckily, his equipment has already been recovered and Espen can practice tomorrow.
All jumps were executed safely today and there were no accidents or close calls. The familiar track offered a competitive edge for WWL veterans, but all new pilots were learning fast and it will be anyone’s race by the time our Grand Prix starts this weekend.
|Rank||Gap||Name||Nat||Run T 1||Run T 2|
The 2015 WWL China Grand Prix promises to be the most exciting and competitive race yet after the results of the qualifier race demolished two long-held WWL beliefs.
The first was the idea that WWL races are won by familiar faces from Grand Prix podiums past. Well, in June, a large and largely unknown Slovenian pilot dominated the qualifier from the first round and more than a third of the Grand Prix slots were filled by WWL newcomers.
Luka Fornazaric topped the field with a first run more than a third of a second faster than WWL veteran Carson Klein and almost a half-second faster than fellow newcomer Jarno Cordia. No one else even came close.
“A lot of the other athletes were saying ‘Luka who?’ when he first got here,” said WWL president Iiro Seppanen. “Then he blew everyone away and nobody asked that again!”
The qualifier also demolished the second belief – that pilots flying TonySuits would always dominate the WWL’s top ranks, as they had done in past Grand Prix races. At Voss, two of the three podium pilots wore Phoenix-Fly and eight of the 16 qualifiers flew PF suits, including Phoenix-Fly owner Robert Pecnik of Croatia, designer of the world’s first commercially available wingsuit, and a pioneering wingsuit proximity pilot. He qualified 12th.
“Based on the results from Norway,” said Seppanen, “the ones to beat in China this year may be the PF pilots. On the other hand, the course there is longer so the pilots will need to fly differently, so we’ll see if PF’s dominance in Voss carries over to Tianmenshan.”
The race format is also shorter this year. In previous years, the Grand Prix has been a two-stage race, with qualifications held immediately before the finals. In contrast, the 2015 qualifier was held at Voss, Norway, in June, which also reflects WWL’s goal to expand its competition circuit to countries beyond China.
Seppanen said all rounds of the 2015 Grand Prix will be broadcast live throughout greater China and race organizers expect broad international news coverage as well.
“We had more than 390 million viewers last year,” he said. “We hope to best that number this year, and we expect to have 10,000 spectators on Tianmenshan to watch the race with their own eyes.”
Mixed in with the live coverage will be previously produced feature packages about the athletes so TV viewers can get to know them better. The further a pilot advances in the competition, the more feature packages there will be about him and the more the audience will learn.
Pilots will also earn more money each time they advance to another round. Total prize money for the 2015 Grand Prix is $68,000 USD, to be allocated as follows:
1st place: $ 30,000
2nd place: $ 13,000
3rd place: $ 7,000
2015 WWL Grand Prix Schedule
October 12 WWL racers and race staff arrive in China
October 13-15 Racers do familiarization and practice flights. Race staff finalizes event preparations.
October 16 Seeding round. Racers vie for race order to set the Grand Prix bracket.
October 17 Round of 16 and Quarterfinal Round
October 18 Semifinal Round and Final Round
2015 WWL Grand Prix Athlete Roster
|Julian Boulle||South Africa||
View all WWL 2015 Athletes in videos below!