Challenger Class perspectives: Red Bull Air Race newcomers look back at their first season – and forward to the next

Courtesy of Red Bull Air Race Media Service Team

In 2018, Dario Costa of Italy and Patrick Davidson of South Africa began their Red Bull Air Race careers in the World Championship’s feeder category, the Challenger Class. Costa collected a fourth-place finish in his opening race, then a podium – the first ever for Italy – with third at race two in Cannes. Davidson, meanwhile, earned his first pole position as well as second place in Kazan, plus another pole and third at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Deep in preparation for their second Challenger Cup campaign, Costa and Davidson took a few moments to look back at the year just gone, and to give their thoughts on the upcoming season, where both will be on the hunt for a maiden win.

Dario, Patrick – Now that you’ve had time to reflect on your premiere season, how do you feel? 

Costa: I feel great! I am really happy with my flying and learned a lot of things you cannot learn unless you’re inside the racetrack. A fourth place on my first race, a podium on my second one and finishing in the points all season – that’s something I have to be proud of. I also have to learn from the mistakes I could have avoided if I hadn’t pushed for the win, but this is racing, and I love it! 

Davidson: I think I can only be happy with my performance, although being as competitive as I am, I would love to have won a race, and better yet the season. But as a rookie I think I flew safely through the different tracks in some tough conditions at a respectable race pace. I am happy! 


What was the highlight of the 2018 season for you? 

Costa: The Cannes race for many reasons: It was the closest race to Italy, and many friends, former students and of course family and fans from Italy came to support. There were so many Italian flags on the beach! It was also an amazing location, a very warm crowd, I loved the track, and last but not least, a podium finish. Once back in the hangar I called my wife and son on the phone, and hearing them both screaming that I made it, that I was on podium, made me feel something I will never forget. It cannot be described – a fantastic reward for never giving up on my dream. 

Davidson: I think 2018 has to be up there with the best of them, mainly due to my involvement in the Red Bull Air Race! From an individual race highlight… I have to say when I won the Quali in Kazan, this was the first time I had heard Steve [Jones] say to me over the radio… “Challenger 77 Davidson: 57-whatever seconds, that’s first place.” I dream of hearing those words at a race!

What are you hoping to achieve in 2019? 

Costa: As usual I have no expectations, I just want to go out there and fly the best I can. The rest is out of my control.

Davidson: 2019 is going to be a fun year for me in the Red Bull Air Race. I have learned a lot from my peers last year and hope my penalties are done for a while! April 2019 is also when my wife and I are expecting our newborn – this I am a little nervous for…

As three new pilots from Austria, Switzerland and the USA join the Challenger Class in 2019, Costa and Davidson will be the newcomers no longer. Watch what happens when six of the 12 Challenger Class pilots take off at the Red Bull Air Race season opener in Abu Dhabi on 8-9 February 2019.


2019 Abu Dhabi Challenger Class Lineup
Mélanie Astles (FRA)
Florian Bergér (GER)
Kevin Coleman (USA)
Dario Costa (ITA)
Luke Czepiela (POL)
Sammy Mason (USA)

For more information, visit: www.redbullairrace.com


About Red Bull Air Race
The Red Bull Air Race World Championship is an aerial motorsport series that demands a combination of speed, precision and skill. Using the fastest, most agile, high performance race planes, pilots compete in iconic locations over water and land. The high speed, low altitude and extreme manoeuvrability required make it only accessible to the world’s most exceptional pilots. 

Flying just metres from the ground, 14 Master Class pilots race against the clock whilst reaching speeds of up to 370 km/h, requiring a combination of precision and skill unmatched in the world of aviation. Pilots must be in peak physical condition as they endure forces up to 12G while navigating the technical racetracks made up of air-filled pylons. 

The Air Race was developed in 2003 and is accredited by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), with more than 90 races completed across five continents. As the most advanced aerial challenge in existence, competing in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship is the highest accolade for elite pilots. 

A Challenger Cup feeder series was introduced in 2014 with the goal of facilitating the development of the unique skills required for the Master Class for the next generation of pilots.

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