Courtesy of Red Bull Media Service Team
It was an exciting day for Czech Air Racing fans in Budapest on Friday, as the two Czech pilots in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship – Petr Kopfstein and Martin Šonka – topped the first two Free Practice sessions ahead of this weekend’s stop in the Hungarian capital. France and the USA also delivered head-turning times.
Budapest, Hungary –With raceplanes flying under the majestic Chain Bridge and right in front of Hungary’s stunning Parliament building, Budapest is a classic stop on the Red Bull Air Race calendar. It is also practically a home race for Kopfstein and Šonka, and masses of fans will be waving Czech flags along the Danube on Saturday and Sunday. After earning his first race podium and finishing fifth overall in 2017, Kopfstein had been disappointed with a slow start to his third season this year, but his 58.088s was not only the best time of Free Practice 1, but the best result of the entire day, indicating that he and his team are finding their stride.
“We’re back! This is a restart of the 2018 season,” said the happy pilot as Czech fans crowded around his hangar and Šonka’s for autographs. “We set this as a goal because I was too conservative, not really pushing, and the raceplane was kind of slow. We did a lot, and we planned a lot, and we’re going to push really, really hard. So yeah, it’s a milestone, but I think this is only the beginning.”
Also coming on strong in Free Practice 1 with times under 59 seconds were Mika Brageot of France, who in only his second season is another charger to watch, as well as the USA’s Michael Goulian, a previous Budapest winner who is currently tied at the top of the overall leaderboard with Australia’s Matt Hall.
Šonka, who finished second in 2017 World Championship, was the only pilot other pilot in Free Practice 1 to go sub-59s, and then in Free Practice 2 he dominated the field with a 58.600s result that was more than half a second faster than Goulian in second and Hall in third. After a surprising last-place result in Free Practice 1, defending World Champion Yoshihide Muroya of Japan bounced back with the fourth-best time in the second session.
Budapest marks the midpoint of the season, and with the overall leaderboard locked up in a series of ties from top to bottom, this is certain to be a make-or-break race for several contenders in the 14-pilot field. Hall and Goulian lead the way with 36 points each, followed by Muroya and Šonka at 19 each, and 2016 World Champion Matthias Dolderer (GER) and Brageot knotted at 15 all. As Qualifying determines the head-to-head matchups for Race Day, the action on Saturday promises a breathtaking battle.
The classic race in Budapest kicks off with Qualifying on Saturday, 23 June, followed by history’s 12th race in the capital on Sunday, 24 June 2018. For all the latest news and information and how to watch, visit www.redbullairrace.com
Results Master Class Free Practice 1, Budapest 2018: 1. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 58.088, 2. Mika Brageot (FRA) 58.262, 3. Michael Goulian (USA) 58.320, 4. Martin Šonka (CZE) 58.636, 5. Juan Velarde (ESP) 59.036, 6. Matt Hall (AUS) 59.308, 7. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 59.829, 8. Pete McLeod (CAN) 1:00.279, 9. François Le Vot (FRA) 1:01.526, 10. Cristian Bolton (CHI) 1:03.218, 11. Matthias Dolderer (GER) 1:03.891, 12. Ben Murphy (GBR) 1:04.415, 13. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 1:05.300, 14. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 1:09.209
Results Master Class Free Practice 2, Budapest 2018: 1. Martin Šonka (CZE) 58.600, 2. Michael Goulian (USA) 59.282, 3. Matt Hall (AUS) 59.696, 4. Yoshihide Muroya (JPN) 59.862, 5. Kirby Chambliss (USA) 1:00.221, 6. Ben Murphy (GBR) 1:00.471, 7. Petr Kopfstein (CZE) 1:00.592, 8. Juan Velarde (ESP) 1:00.682, 9. François Le Vot (FRA) 1:02.025, 10. Cristian Bolton (CHI) 1:02.473, 11. Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) 1:03.811, 12. Pete McLeod (CAN) 1:04.002, 13. Matthias Dolderer (GER) SCO, 14. Mika Brageot (FRA) DNF
Red Bull Air Race 2018 Calendar
2-3 February: Abu Dhabi, UAE
20-22 April: Cannes, France
26-27 May: Chiba, Japan
23-24 June: Budapest, Hungary
25-26 August: Kazan, Russia
15-16 September: Wiener Neustadt, Austria
6-7 October: Indianapolis, USA
About Red Bull Air Race
Created in 2003, the Red Bull Air Race World Championship has held more than 80 races around the globe. The Red Bull Air Race World Championship features the world’s best race pilots in a pure motorsport competition that combines speed, precision and skill. Using the fastest, most agile, lightweight racing planes, pilots hit speeds of 370 kmh while enduring forces of up to 12G as they navigate a low-level slalom track marked by 25-meter-high, air-filled pylons. In 2014, the Challenger Cup was conceived to help the next generation of pilots develop the skills needed for potential advancement to the Master Class that vies for the World Championship.