The opening round of DCL’s first hybrid season was all in, featuring 35 top pilots from 15 countries.

Seven teams of the world’s best drone racing pilots launched the battle for the 2021 DCL World Championship with a Sunday showdown in the fictional landscape of Proptown, USA. And while the name at the top of the leaderboard was familiar, the battles were anything but routine. Defending titleholders XBlades Racing of Great Britain took the win to claim first place in the overall standings, but admitted that they’re going to have work harder to maintain an advantage over second-place finishers Raiden Racing of Japan. Meanwhile third-place Quad Force One of the USA were hotly pursued by teams like Super Sonic X of Korea and the China Dragons. Raiden Racing’s Evan Desautels aka Silent FPV made history as the winner of the first-ever DCL Women’s Cup race.

Proptown debuted a new race format, where teams clash to earn points in unpredictable round robin competition rather than the previous knockout heats. At the end of the round robin, the top two teams in the points face off for the win in a Grand Final, while the third- and fourth-best square off in a Small Final to decide third place.

Just making Sunday’s Grand Final was a major step for Raiden Racing, who have been rebuilding their confidence since scoring no overall points at all just two seasons ago. Sunday’s climax between Great Britain and Japan consisted of a pair of heats with pilots racing two on two, followed by a Big Heat that saw all eight pilots race head-to-head simultaneously. XBlades won all three heats for an 18 to 12 victory, but it took everything they had to do it.

“This new format was super hard. In the Big Heat, we had to race four laps, and that was the hardest thing I’ve even done, because the track was also super difficult,” said XBlades Captain MinChan Kim, who was racing from South Korea, where it was past 6:00am during those climactic moments. “We did a great job, but Raiden is getting much faster than before, so we have to grind even harder in DCL training. I cannot wait for the next races.”

The Small Final for third place saw Quad Force One top Korea’s Super Sonic X by a narrow 17 to 13 margin. Silas Aaron, the American team’s 15-year-old captain, is an experienced DCL contender himself, but was leading a crew of newcomers.

Aaron said, “We had a really good recovery after what was a bit of a rough day. I would have loved to make it to the Grand Final, and we came really close – the gap was only four points. Overall we know the mistakes we made, and we’re going to focus on that and try to improve.”

Also part of the day’s action: The first-ever DCL Women’s Cup event was thrilling as seven pilots, one representing each of the seven teams, raced at the same time. Raiden Racing’s Evan Desautels from the USA, was unstoppable, sweeping all four heats on her way to first place. In second, XBlades’ Luisa Rizzo put up a serious challenge, while Siyun Park of Super Sonic X rounded out the podium.

An overwhelmed Desautels said, “It’s a lot to take in right now. Luisa was the one I was most afraid of and I felt the wind down my back, but I knew how fast I was. Six years of drone sims is definitely starting to pay off, and I’m glad I stuck to it.”

While 2021 marks the second season that DCL has raced in Proptown, which is based on the architecture of major US cities, this year’s track configurations were entirely new. The three tracks – dubbed Skysurf, Playground and Rings – challenged the pilots with features including blind jumps, 720-degree gate navigation, slaloms, spiral ascents, climbs and dives through rings, and a dazzling light tunnel, to name a few. Record times on each track were held by MinChan Kim (XBlades) on the first two, with Killian Rousseau (XBlades) being the fastest on Rings. Evan Desautels held the fastest time record on both tracks raced in the DCL Women’s Cup.

Adding to the excitement were fan giveaways and the surprise announcement that DCL viewers would vote on Twitch to determine the tracks for the Final rounds. The fans chose Rings for Grand Final and Playground for the Small Final.

All three new tracks will be available to play in DCL – The Game. Stay tuned to DCL social channels for updates. For more information on DCL – The Game: aero/game/features/

A Proptown recap featuring interviews with pilots such as David Modig of Raiden Racing and Mason Lively of Quad Force One will be the subject of the next episode of DCL’s new talk show series “What the Kwad?!” – streaming live on Twitch this Thursday, 24 June.

Full race results for Virtual Drone Grand Prix Proptown, USA

World Championship: https://dcl.aero/race/virtual-drone-grand-prix-proptown-usa-2021/

Women’s Cup: https://dcl.aero/race/virtual-drone-grand-prix-proptown-usa-w-2021/

Next: The battle for the World Championship heats up with the Virtual Drone Grand Prix Reutte, Austria, streaming globally on Twitch on 25 July 2021.

Keep up with DCL all season long: Follow @dronechampionsleague on social and keep up with news here on www.dcl.aero