Ten things to know about XBlades Racing

After winning their fifth consecutive DCL World Championship – and the first-ever DCL virtual season – Britain’s XBlades have reached near-mythic status. A look behind the legend provides insights on what makes the team tick, and serves up some lesser-known info about the six pilots who raced this year.

1)XBlades’ biggest rivals are their own teammates. Before they ever face an opponent in a Drone Grand Prix, the XBlades pilots must win one of the four available seats in an internal trial against 13 other team members. Team founder Richard de Aragues says, “If you’re playing for one of the best football teams, you can be a great player but end up on the bench. We have a very strong depth of talent, so it was a real internal battle.”

2) Skills matter, age doesn’t: While the four XBlades pilots who clinched the 2020 crown on the virtual Lake Zurich tracks in October were 12 to 16 years old, overall the XBlades team members span an age range from about 40 right down to a new protégé who is only 5.

3) The student becomes the master. Ashton Gamble was inspired to become a drone pilot when as a 10-year-old he met XBlades star Luke Bannister. The story came full circle this season when Drobot Racer was able not only to race alongside his idol as a fellow team member, but occasionally to outpace him.

4) Despite a virtual season without real drones, Owen Knight still had to overcome technical issues. As if preparing for his first Drone Grand Prix at Proptown wasn’t pressure enough, Owen’s PC broke four days before the competition. Waiting for parts, KnightHawk couldn’t practice, but he eventually rebuilt the computer and helped the team acquire 470 points across the weekend.

5) Alex Zamora is a really big deal in his native Spain. Alex raised his global profile by scoring key points for XBlades this year, but he was already hugely popular at home thanks to appearances in Disney programming and on Spain’s Got Talent, as well as on radio. Did we mention he’s only just turning 13?

6) MinChan Kim is as amazing as he seems. MCK was a new acquisition for XBlades this year, and he excelled all season long, earning more points than any other contender to take Pilot of the Year honors. A master of individual competition, the 16-year-old also proved to be a strong leader, motivator and team player – and the fact that he admits to race-day nervousness only endears him to fans. (MCK’s trick for staying calm? Listening to music.)

7) The skills that Team Manager Harry Plested learned in the DCL have led to a tech career. A successful drone racing pilot, Harry became the XBlades’ assistant technician at 16. He rose to chief technician (and helped design the team’s championship-winning quad in 2019) before being named team manager in 2020. Outside racing, he works on the cutting edge of drone infrastructure, developing solutions for the delivery of emergency medical supplies.

8) Killian Rousseau surprises even himself. A former junior FAI champion, winner of the 2018 FAI Drone Racing World Cup and podium finisher in the 2019 FAI World Championship, DarKex was pretty sure he preferred racing real drones. But since getting into sim racing, he has really enjoyed it, and he clocked a fastest lap right from the 2020 opener.

9) XBlades founder Richard de Aragues and pilot Luke Bannister have gone Hollywood (in the best possible way). As an ambassador for Breitling, Luke – who has won five DCL titles with XBlades – has had dinner in Los Angeles with the likes of Brad Pitt, and his talent for piloting drones has made him in demand as an aerial cinematographer. Meanwhile Richard is not only the team principal of the world’s number-one drone racing team, but an accomplished writer, director and producer for film, video and television.

10) The XBlades always prepare – and with preparation comes belief. “We talk about the three P’s: Preparation, Preparation, Preparation,” says Richard de Aragues. “Our pilots honestly believed they were going to win, and they manifested that when they were really focused and didn’t make those mistakes that a lot of other pilots made. That’s what it’s all about.”

Keep up with the latest on the XBlades and all the DCL teams on our social channels.

Related articles