I’m originally from Austria with Hungarian roots so it was a real pleasure to join some of our customers for some thrill-seeking fun at the last ever European Red Bull Air Race. It took place in July by Lake Balaton in Hungary.
Despite being enthusiastic fans, the customers had never seen a Red Bull Air Race World Championship before, so they were in for a treat! They got to experience first-hand some of the world’s best pilots furiously battling it out through the 6km aerial race track to secure a place on the podium.
The day started with an on-land pylon tour during which we were given the chance to climb inside one of the inflated pylons and see for ourselves that it was pretty much a sail! Designed to rip apart instantly on contact without impacting the pilot or plane, but also to remain stationary in all weather conditions, pylons are 25 metres high and are made up of nine sections of fabric. This enables any damaged sections that are hit by a plane to be easily replaced. We were all impressed to learn the water team can replace and inflate a pylon within two minutes.
We then donned life jackets and took to the water in a speed boat to see a pylon up close. It’s amazing to think that each one is anchored by a 1000 kilo anchor and a 1000 kilo chain.
After watching Martin Šonka swoop to victory on the first day we were invited to the Race Control Tower. This is where all the operations sit. Every bit of the race is managed here. From the judges to the weather monitoring to the safety. It turns out Jim “Guido” DiMatteo, the Red Bull Air Race director has his own claim to fame. Much like the character Viper from the film Top Gun DiMatteo spent 25 years flying fighter jets in the US navy and was a Top Gun instructor pilot.
On day two of the race, our customers were given the ultimate ‘behind the scenes’ hangar tour. Everyone got to meet their favourite pilot, quiz them on what it’s like to participate in a Red Bull Air Race and get caps signed. Some of our lucky customers even managed to fit in tea and biscuits with the only British contender, Ben Murphy. He eventually took a career-best second place in the weekend’s race.
After a delicious lunch it was time to kick back in our reserved seats and watch the action unfold for the main race event. This was not the most typical of my weekends, but it was one of the most memorable I have ever had. I really enjoyed spending a fantastic and unique experience with my customers, which was made all the more enjoyable thanks to their feedback from the event.