Courtesy of Red Bull Media Service Team
Here’s a look back on some of the aerobatic series’ key turning points.
More than a decade and a half after the series’ debut, the curtain has come down on Red Bull Air Race with Australian pilot Matt Hall crowned the final champion in Chiba, Japan on September 7–8, 2019.
2003 – Red Bull Air Race is born
The first race took place in Zeltweg, Austria on June 28, 2003, after lengthy negotiations and plans came to fruition. Péter Besenyei was
the guinea pig for the series with its first test flight through the
specially developed Air Gates made up of the pylons – later to become an
icon of the sport. And, aptly, after two years’ worth of planning and
development, it was the Hungarian who was hailed the inaugural title
victor after winning the season’s two races in Austria and then Budapest
2005 – The series goes global
going global in 2004 and building its reputation for spectacular
settings around the globe, the Red Bull Air Race was granted World
Championship status in 2005. The USA’s Mike Mangold
was unstoppable, winning five of the now seven-race season to claim the
first World Champion title, while Besenyei took second and Mangold’s
compatriot Kirby Chambliss finished third.
2009 – Record crowds flock to Barcelona
Bull Air Race enjoyed its best-ever crowds, with a million spectators
estimated to have flocked to Barcelona, Spain, for that year’s race,
which also doubled up as the season finale. 15 pilots lined up to take
the title, but Paul Bonhomme
of Great Britain made no mistake in the climax to proceedings, ending
that campaign with 67 points to the 60 points of runner-up Hannes Arch of Austria.
2010 – Big Apple takes its bow
global appeal of Red Bull Air Race widened further with one of the
world’s most iconic cities added to the calendar for the first time: New
York. Planes scythed to a backdrop of the Statue of Liberty in a season
that saw another chapter in the rivalry between Bonhomme and Arch and
concluded with the Briton becoming the first pilot to take back-to-back
2014 – Red Bull Air Race returns with added Challenger class
a three-year hiatus, the Red Bull Air Race was relaunched in 2014 and
came out more competitive, more compelling and even safer than before.
And it now had a feeder class. The Challenger Cup was introduced to help
outstanding pilots develop the Air Racing
skills that could potentially put them in the World Championship.
Eleven pilots took part, with six earning a place in the
winner-takes-all final, where Czech ace Petr Kopfstein was crowned the inaugural Challenger Cup Champion.
2015 – The ‘ghost plane’ thrills viewers
Bull Air Race has never been a stranger to technology and perhaps it
was embraced to the greatest-ever effect in the series’ history with the
introduction of the Ghost Plane. Each Red Bull Air Race pilot flies
through the racetrack alone against the clock, for obvious safety
reasons. Yet since 2015, viewers have thrilled to the sight of World
Championship opponents racing wing-to-wing thanks to this technological
innovation. More than a graphic, the so-called Ghost Plane overlays a
computer-generated representation of the current leader onto the
live-action run of another competitor in the track. So spectators see
two race planes at once, witnessing every lead change as it happens
until one pilot edges out the win.
2015 – The birth of the simulator
pilots and teams try to eke out whatever advantage they can, race
simulators are used for the first time. Using GPS coordinates of the Air
Gates and data from the planes, the specially developed computer
software allows the series’ teams and pilots to find the best racing
lines through the track even before a race weekend.
2016 – More firsts
Motor Speedway is accustomed to high speed, but, rather than the racing
on the ground in the iconic Indy 500, the racing instead turned to the
skies overhead. The Brickyard witnessed another milestone of the Red
Bull Air Race: Matthias Dolderer of Germany wrapped up that season as first pilot ever to win the title with a race to spare.
2016 – A new curve to the Red Bull Air Race
have been a highly visible modification and become commonplace among
the fleet of raceplanes in the series, with a variety of different
approaches tackled by the respective teams. Their introduction raised
some eyebrows and fuelled a debate about effectiveness: the winglets
increase lift and drag at the same time. Today teams usually have a
range of winglets available to suit the differing characteristics of
2017 – Muroya edges end-of-season thriller
Yoshihide Muroya had
announced himself as a proper contender with a maiden win in 2016,
seven years after first racing in the series. The Japanese pilot had
been the pacesetter in the skies in the early part of 2017 but issues
with his plane saw him four points behind Martin Šonka of
the Czech Republic heading back to Indianapolis. But he turned the tide
when needed to win the race in a time that not even the simulators
deemed possible and, with it, the World Champion title.
2018 – Red Bull Air Race LIVE VR wins Webby Award
Bull Air Race teamed up with Google to create the world’s first
virtual-reality flight experience powered by real-time data. Using live
data from the cockpit while the plane is flying on the track, the app
re-creates the flight in a 360° virtual reality and allows viewers to
see the racing from a pilot’s point of view. The experience was awarded
in the category Mobile Sites & Apps, Technical Achievement at the
2018 Webby Award edition, the international awards honouring excellence
on the internet.
2019 – Experience a race plane in your living room
Apple’s latest augmented-reality technology lets Red Bull Air Race fans get creative with animated 3D raceplanes – in the Red Bull Air Race Augmented Reality Challenge. High-quality animated AR files of actual Red Bull Air Race planes are available to download for free at www.redbullairrace.com/AR exclusively and work on any Apple mobile device running iOS 12 and higher – no app or plugin needed.