Red Bull Air Race season takes off soon

Two Czech pilots will be among the competitors in the upcoming championship

The 2017 Red Bull Air Race season will have eight events, and as in previous years Czech pilots will be participating.

The 10th season of the official World Championship will begin with its 75th race, to be held in Abu Dhabi on Feb 10–11. It is the 10th time the season has opened there. The season concludes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Oct. 14–15.

The second stop is a return to San Diego, California, on April 15–16. That venue was highly popular in the 2007 to '09 seasons. The third stop is in Chiba, Japan, on June 3–4 and then the action finally comes closer to home. On July 1–2 the planes will fly under the Chain Bridge in Budapest, Hungary.

The Red Bull Air Race will then go to Kazan, Russia, for the first time. The city is commonly called the Sports Capital of Russia. The championship will then move to two more locations in Europe which will be announced later before concluding in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana, where the 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Champion will be crowned.

This is the fifth season for Czech pilot Martin Šonka of Team Šonka. He said he hopes to learn from the previous season's mistakes, which caused him to lose precious points. “All last season the team and I were getting used to a new plane and over time we had to sort out problems. Now nothing should come as a surprise, and we should be able to make the most of its potential. The main goal for this year will be to consistently fly as cleanly as possible, without mistakes and penalties,” he said, adding that the 2016 season gave him “painful but very valuable experience.”

During the 2016 season, he participated in the European Championships in aerobatics where he did better than he expected, and that lifted his mood. He also participated in air shows. “Now I gained new energy and I cannot wait to race. … And the calendar will also include new stops, so I am looking forward to this year very much,” he said.

Czech pilot Petr Kopfstein will be racing for the second year as part of Team Spielberg, and last year also had a steep learning curve. “We needed to get experience to correctly adjust the plane and fine tune the functioning of the team, which we did. We considered our first season in the Red Bull Air Race a test, and despite the 14th place finish we were satisfied with the result,” he said.

“We want to be equal competitors to anybody in the field. That is our goal for my second season. This year, I will consider it a success to come in 10th place. I would be very pleased to be in the top eight, but I know it will not be easy,” he added.

Last year his team also lacked someone to analyze the flight data from training and to help with tactics on a flight simulator, but they have added a new team member for that. A sports psychologist will also help him to keep sharp and focused. “I think our team is well-prepared for this season,” he said.

So far, this type of air racing has not come to the Czech Republic, but the Czech pilot Šonka would welcome it. “I would love to have a home race, and there are many nice places, for example, I can imagine having a race at the Vltava under the Prague Castle,” he said, adding that it would be hard to organize due to the bureaucracy. “A race is expensive and we would need first to find somebody to finance it,” he said.

Erich Wolf, general manager of Red Bull Air Race, said he can't remember when he had been so excited about a season. “The calendar goes from strength to strength, with every stop holding special significance as either a landmark location in the sport's history or a premiere in a dramatic new setting. We're especially thrilled to bring high-speed, low-altitude racing to a new audience in Russia,” he said. “Each pilot and team is keen to clinch the honor of winning the 75th Red Bull Air Race at the opener in Abu Dhabi just a few weeks from now, and the pace and intensity will only build throughout the season. What a year it's going to be.”


Red Bull Air Race 2017 Calendar
Feb. 10-11: Abu Dhabi, UAE
April 15-16: San Diego, USA
June 03-04: Chiba, Japan
July 01-02: Budapest, Hungary
July 22-23: Kazan, Russia
Aug. 12-13: TBA, Europe
Sept. 02-03: TBA, Europe
Oct. 14-15: Indianapolis, USA

For more visit also:
Red Bull Air Race www.redbullairrace.com
Martin Šonka www.martin-sonka.cz
Petr Kopfstein http: www.kopfstein.com

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