Two new Challenger Class pilots share their first race experience

Courtesy of Red Bull Air Race Media Service

Challenger pilot Patrick Davidson of South Africa performs during the Challanger Cup at the first round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on February 3, 2018. –
Photographer Credit:
Naim Chidiac/Red Bull Content Pool

At the season opener of the Red Bull Air Race in Abu Dhabi on 2-3 February, two new pilots joined the sport’s second competition category, the Challenger Class. It was the first step on a path that both dream will take them to the ranks of the World Championship one day. So how did it feel?

One of the newcomers, Dario Costa, is the first pilot to represent Italy in the Red Bull Air Race – the latest milestone in a well-rounded career that combines championship-winning expertise in aerobatics with skills as a flight instructor, display pilot, and manager and organizer of aviation events. The other fresh face on the scene, South Africa’s Patrick Davidson, has not only claimed multiple national aerobatic championships and podiums on the World stage, but is additionally a leading airshow pilot who performs for audiences globally.

Air Racing, with the raceplanes navigating low-altitude tracks of 25-meter-high inflated pylons, is a whole new challenge. Both pilots delivered solid efforts in their maiden race. Costa flew cleanly and finished fourth, whereas Davidson collected a two-second penalty when he did not level his wings in passing an Air Gate, finishing sixth. (Without that penalty, the South African would have clinched his first podium.)

Challenger pilot Patrick Davidson of South Africa returns from his flight during qualifying day at the first round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on February 2, 2018. –
Photographer Credit:
Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Content Pool

Both pilots had a lot to learn in a short time, but were able to focus on Race Day despite the excitement. “I was obviously quite nervous on the morning of the race,” admits Davidson. “I had a great run – it was my best net time – but unfortunately I had a penalty at Gate 5. It must have been pretty close, but it’s all a learning curve, and I enjoyed it a lot.”

He continues, “There was a lot of information to take in, and people have been really, really helpful.”

Costa came away with mixed emotions. “I’m happy that I finished in the points in my first race. It will help in the future trying to get into the season finale,” he states. “However, I am also disappointed as I was less than a half-second away from finishing on the podium in my first race.”

Challenger pilot Dario Costa of Italy prepares for his flight during qualifying day at the first round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on February 2, 2018. –
Photographer Credit:
Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Content Pool

With Costa finishing so close to the podium, he feels that he might have been able to push that little bit harder. “I chose to be smooth and clean in the race. Earlier in the week I had over-G’d a lot [passed a G force limit outlined in the rules] and didn’t want to do that in the race. Overall I’m very happy with my sector times. Looking at some of the sectors I was third fastest, close to Florian and Daniel,” he commented, referring to runs by the top two overall finishers from 2017, Florian Bergér of Germany and Daniel Ryfa of Sweden.



The determined Italian has already figured out where he might need to devote some extra study: “I was losing all my time in the Vertical Turning Maneuver,” he explains.

Now that the pair have flown in their first race, they are already looking ahead to their next stop on the calendar: the Red Bull Air Race debut in Cannes, France on 21-22 April. “It’s going to be an interesting season!” declares Davidson.

“We’re going to some new venues where the other guys haven’t flown, and with the new raceplanes it could make it a more level playing field, so hopefully I’ll be able to do better,” added the South African, elaborating that the Challenger Class has switched to a Edge 540 V2 raceplane this season.

Costa has already formulated his plan on what he will do between now and the race on the Riviera. “I will fly as much as possible and also work on my mental and physical preparation every day,” he asserts. “That way I will be able to compete with the best.”

Tickets for the 2018 Red Bull Air Race World Championship are on sale now. For more information on tickets and all the latest, visit www.redbullairrace.com

Challenger pilot Dario Costa of Italy performs during qualifying day at the first round of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on February 2, 2018. –
Photographer Credit:
Andreas Langreiter / Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull Air Race 2018 Calendar
2-3 February: Abu Dhabi, UAE
21-22 April: Cannes, France
26-27 May: Europe, location TBA
23-24 June: Budapest, Hungary
4-5 August: Asia, location TBA
25-26 August: Kazan, Russia
6-7 October: Indianapolis, USA
November: Asia, location TBA

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 370kmh while enduring forces of up to 10G 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.

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