Classic clash on the Danube: Red Bull Air Race back in Budapest this weekend
Budapest has established itself as a classic stop on the Red Bull Air Race World Championship calendar: a location legendary for its long heritage dating to the first season of the sport and, especially, for an iconic racetrack approach that sees the raceplanes dive under the city’s Chain Bridge. Every pilot wants a Budapest win on his resume, and every team knows that victory in the fourth stop on the eight-race calendar will give them momentum at the critical midpoint of the season.
Martin Sonka and the beautiful Hungarian Parliament in the background. Credits: Red Bull Content Pool
With 14 of the world’s best pilots locked in a series of ties right down the leaderboard, the 370 kmh flights will be furious. Tens of thousands of spectators – including Peter Besenyei, Hungary’s own Red Bull Air Race pioneer – will be focused on Australia’s Matt Hall and the USA’s Michael Goulian, neck and neck at the top of the standings with 36 points each. Twice a runner-up in the World Championship, Hall has won the last two races and is looking for a hat-trick over the Danube. Goulian is having a career-best season start, including race trophies for first, second and third. And both have stood on the Budapest podium before, with the American winning in 2009.
Tight in their own tie are the perpetual rivals who finished first and second in the 2017 World Championship, Japan’s Yoshihide Muroya and the Czech Republic’s Martin Šonka. Sitting 17 points back from the frontrunners with 19 each, they will be eager to break free of each other; and to make sure that the leaders do not get out of reach. The same is true of Germany’s Matthias Dolderer, who triumphed in Budapest on the way to his 2016 World Championship, and the charging young Frenchman Mika Brageot – both possess 15 points.
But no one in the lineup has had more success flying at the “Pearl of the Danube” than US pilot Kirby Chambliss, with six Budapest podiums including two wins. “Budapest was the second race in the history of the sport, and that’s what always makes it so special to me,” says the two-time Red Bull Air Race titleholder, who at eighth place overall will be keen to reproduce his 2017 victory in the capital. “The city is so beautiful – but as a pilot, you never know what you’re going to get over the water. The wind and conditions that can start up there could make it a pretty tough racetrack. I’m looking forward to going back!”
Red Bull Air Race 2018 Calendar
2-3 February: Abu Dhabi, UAE
20-22 April: Cannes, France
26-27 May: Chiba, Japan
23-24 June: Budapest, Hungary
25-26 August: Kazan, Russia
15-16 September: Wiener Neustadt, Austria
6-7 October: Indianapolis, USA
About Red Bull Air Race
Created in 2003, the Red Bull Air Race World Championship has held more than 80 races around the globe. The Red Bull Air Race World Championship features the world’s best race pilots in a pure motorsport competition that combines speed, precision and skill. Using the fastest, most agile, lightweight racing planes, pilots hit speeds of 370 kmh while enduring forces of up to 12G as they navigate a low-level slalom track marked by 25-meter-high, air-filled pylons. In 2014, the Challenger Cup was conceived to help the next generation of pilots develop the skills needed for potential advancement to the Master Class that vies for the World Championship.
Text and photos: Red Bull Content Pool
I will be attending the Budapest round of Red Bull Air Race this weekend and can't wait to cover the event from on-site here on Tarmac and Gravel! It's definitely one of the most beautiful locations in the calendar so expect some amazing photos! Stay tuned!