Czech pilots ready for Cannes Air Race

The first Red Bull Air Race from France can be seen online

The second event in this year’s Red Bull Air Race series will be taking place for the first time in Cannes over the weekend of April 21 and 22. The races will be streamed live and later broadcast.

Czech pilot Petr Kopfstein, flying for Team Spielberg, is one of two Czech pilots in the race. He hopes to reach the final four.

The other pilot, Martin Šonka, is experiencing some technical issues but still expects to compete and is doing well in the trial runs.

The first race of the season took place in February in Abu Dhabi. Šonka finished fourth after a minor violation pushed him back from the originally announced third-place finish.

Kopfstein ended unhappily when he did not make it out of the initial Round of 14 and is currently in ninth place. “We had excellent times in the training. But I was unnecessarily cautious in the race. Besides, the engine was not properly set. I believe we can improve our standing at Cannes now,” Kopfstein said.

Šonka had hoped to replace the pistons in his engine, but the replacement parts have been held up in customs in France. “The engine is not at 100 percent performance. It is taking more oil, and it's weaker. There isn’t proper combustion. … It does not fly as it should,” Šonka said, adding that there was also a problem with a fuel injector.

On a positive note, he said he had reduced his own weight, which was a goal he had so the overall weight of the plane would be lower. As a result, the plane can fly faster.

The race will take place in picturesque Provence, marking the first time in 12 seasons and over 80 races that an air race takes place in France. Three French pilots, including two in the Challenger category, will be flying.

Kopfstein likes the atmosphere for racing in France. “The French are among the nations who love flying. In my aerobatic career I have never seen such a welcome as at the world championship in France, where those who greeted us the filled a square. I expect in Cannes they will line the coast,” Kopfstein said.

Cannes is famous for its international film festival. This time, however, the audience will not turn to the screen but to the aerial drama over the Mediterranean Sea. The organizers have prepared a very technical race course.

“We'll get into the circle. Two vertical maneuvers are ahead, and everything will take place in rapid succession. There will be no space to breathe during the flight,” Kopfstein said.

Weather will also play a major role, as Cannes is very windy due to the sea. “It is possible that we will use a different flying strategy each day. But I believe we are well-prepared. I spent dozens of hours on a simulator, where I tested different flight paths in different weather conditions. We know how to fly fast,” he said.

Three-time Red Bull Air Race world champion Paul Bonhomme had praise for Kopfstein. "Petr is excellent; he flies cleanly and solidly,” the British legend said. "Racing takes a very professional attitude and is best without with hype. It is beginning to pay off and will soon lead to winning.”

Kopfstein was modest. “On one hand, it is nice to hear it. On the other hand, it is a bit of a commitment because one would want to fulfill the words,” Kopfstein said.

People can watch live broadcasts of the Cannes race at Qualification starts on Saturday at 4 pm. The Sunday race starts at 2 pm. Czech Television will broadcast a recording on Sunday at 11 pm.

Related links
Red Bull Air Race
Martin Šonka
Petr Kopfstein

Related article
Martin Šonka ready for Cannes spotlight | Prague TV 06.04.2018

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