Red Bull Air Race moves to Budapest

Both Czech pilots are hoping to improve their standings in front of visiting Czech fans

The next leg in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship takes place in Budapest on June 23–24. Both Czech pilots are looking forward to support from their fans, as many have traveled to Hungary to see the race that will take place above the Danube.

The pilots are already preparing for the big event. “While the setup on the banks of the Danube in front of Budapest's famous Parliament building continues, the Red Bull Air Race pilots fight strong winds and cloudy conditions during final practice today,” Prague.TV correspondent Greg Bech reported from the scene.

“The weather change that hit Prague yesterday is making conditions tough in Budapest for flying, but as the pylons sway in the strong breeze, the precision of the RBAR pilots continues to attract both locals and tourist during the practice sessions. As locals begin to wind up their working days, organizers expect some big crowds for final practice,” he added.

Martin Šonka returned from the previous race in Japan with a third-place finish, which was good news after the technical problems he faced in the first two races. He is now in fourth place overall, after three races.

Šonka also finally managed to replace the cylinders in the engine, so his plane should be in top shape. The cylinders should have been changed before the second race in Cannes, but got stuck in customs.

Šonka looks forward to the atmosphere, with Czech fans in the crowd.

Changing the cylinders was not a simple task. “The new cylinders have to be set right. You have to spend many hours on it,” he said. He has flown his plane across the Czech Republic extensively since the change. “I know every scoop, valley and slope. It's been long, but hopefully they are set up and the engine will be ready for the race as much as possible,” he said in a press release.

It is too early to tell whether the change will speed up the aircraft. “The race itself will shows if everything is as good as it should be and if the engine with new cylinders works optimally. We did everything we could do, so we hope the result will come,” he said.

Last year, Šonka came in fourth place in Budapest after a two-second penalty pushed him out of the top spot. He hopes to do better this time. “There are a huge number of fans and we would like to enjoy a good result with them. For all the time they stand behind us, it would be nice to reward them for their support,” he said.

The other Czech pilot in the race, Petr Kopfstein of Team Spielberg, also hopes to improve his standing. He has finished in ninth place in each of the three previous races this season and overall is in 12th place out of 14 pilots.

“Of course, we do not evaluate the start of the season positively. On the other hand, we are making the best of it. We got a cold shower that kicked us into making a whole series of adjustments. Even before the race in Budapest we installed new wheel covers, we did a lot of checking and optimized some things. After the race in Hungary, and especially after the end of the season, there will be more big changes,” Kopfstein said.

He hopes to break his run of bad luck. “I believe this race will be different than the previous one. We are not hanging our heads. There are five races ahead of us,” he added.

The Red Bull Air Race took place in Budapest for the first time in 2003, when the season only had two races.

“The race track has hardly changed compared to previous years. We know that we can fly it fast. If we didn't get a penalty last year, we would have gone to the finals,” he said. Last year he finished fifth at the race in Budapest, after a two-second penalty for incorrectly passing a gate.

People can watch the whole program from Budapest live on the Internet at The June 23 qualification round starts at 3 pm, and the June 24 race begins at 1 pm.

ČT Sport will broadcast a recording of the race on Monday, June 25, at 6 am.

Related links
Red Bull Air Race
Martin Šonka
Petr Kopfstein

Next Race close to Prague, Czech Republic
Wiener Neustadt, Austria Sept. 15-16

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