Courtesy of Red Bull Newsroom
With two races behind him, defending World Champion Matthias Dolderer talks about his season so far, the six stops to come and what he’s been up to outside the cockpit.
“The plan is to be consistent.”
That plan earned Matthias Dolderer the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in 2016, and it’s the strategy that’s currently holding him in second position, just five points behind overall leader Martin Šonka, with two stops of the eight-race season all wrapped up. Granted, after two races last year the German had already seized the top of the leaderboard, but Matthias Dolderer Racing has been steady in 2017, making the Final Four at both February’s season opener and April’s race in San Diego, and improving to a podium place of third in the California showdown.
“We’re feeling good. Somehow we gave away the better positions in the races, but the speed is there – we’re confident,” Dolderer says. “The number-two position overall is good, though we’re very close together up front. Everyone has the chance to win, which makes it really exciting.”
The Tannheim-based team aims to “take a step forward” at the next race in Chiba, Japan on 3-4 June. And as always, they’re focusing on their own performance rather than on their opponents.
“Still,” Dolderer admits with a smile, “it’s interesting to see what’s going on around us. My impression is that this year it’s even closer than before.”
Many would agree. The Czech Republic’s Šonka is heading the leaderboard for the first time in his career, and Spain’s Juan Velarde and Slovenia’s Peter Podunšek have earned maiden podiums. Meanwhile, pilots like Japan’s Yoshihide Muroya and Canada’s Pete McLeod are both coming on strong, and their peer Matt Hall of Australia just debuted a fast new raceplane.
“Nothing is guaranteed, anything is possible,” Dolderer comments. “When it comes to the season ahead, it looks very sportive, and we could see more surprises. Again, this is where we have to stay very much focused on ourselves, to avoid getting distracted.”
Fortunately, the pilot who flies number 21 seems to have a knack for compartmentalizing his time so that even with his title-winning discipline, he can still savor life as a World Champion. After the race in San Diego, he had a rare privilege: “I spent 24 hours on an aircraft carrier with seven other race pilots – it was a lifetime experience. Purely amazing!” he declares. Not long afterward, he had a quintessential Los Angeles moment, getting together for breakfast with Arnold Schwarzenegger and record-setting skydiver Felix Baumgartner.
In Europe, Dolderer ran close to 15km for charity in the Wings for Life World Run and on 13 May he was on hand for the big game between RB Leipzig and FC Bayern Munich, and now he’s ready for another sporting event – on 21 May he’ll present the trophy to the winner of the DTM race at the Lausitzring – where he’ll have his own home race this September.
Back in the cockpit, Dolderer likes to take things one step – one stop – at a time, so Chiba has his full attention, but when pressed to pick a race he’s particularly looking forward to, he says, “I have to mention them all, because I love all the racetracks and locations. Chiba is cool because of the huge crowds of fans. Budapest has the bridge and the good memories of winning there last year. Kazan is a new stop, so we’re very excited to go there. We’re loving that the World Championship is returning to Porto, and it’s super cool to have a home race in Lausitz again.”
He concludes, “And then Indy, of course, will be the Final. Who knows what will happen?”
Tickets for the 2017 Red Bull Air Race World Championship, including the race in Chiba, Japan on 3-4 June, are on sale now. For all the latest, visit www.redbullairrace.com.
Red Bull Air Race Calendar 2017
10-11 February Abu Dhabi, UAE
15-16 April San Diego, USA
3-4 June Chiba, Japan
1-2 July Budapest, Hungary
22-23 July Kazan, Russia
2-3 September Porto, Portugal
16-17 September Lausitz
14-15 October Indianapolis, USA