Air Race History
2001: The idea
Back in 2001, there was an idea to merge flying with the most exciting elements of motor racing. Eight years later, the Red Bull Air Race, in its current form, already goes well beyond this vision. It has become a completely new, completely independent racing sport with more tension, greater competitiveness and larger audiences than anyone ever imagined.
The Red Bull Air Race was conceived in 2001 in the Red Bull sports think-tank which has been responsible for creating a wide range of innovative sports events across the world. The aim was to develop a brand new aviation race that would challenge the ability of the world’s best pilots, creating a race in the sky that was not simply about speed, but also precision and skill. The answer was to build a specially designed obstacle course which the pilots would navigate at high speeds.
2002: First Air Gate prototypes
Development of the prototypes of what are now known as the ‘Air Gates’ began in 2002 and that same year, renowned Hungarian pilot Peter Besenyei successfully completed the first test flight through them.
2003: First Red Bull Air Race
After two years in planning and development, the first official Red Bull Air Race was ready to take off in Zeltweg, Austria in 2003. Six pilots competed in front of several hundred thousand spectators. The race was such a resounding success that a second was staged the same year near Budapest in Hungary. It signalled a new era in motor sport.
In 2004 the new cone-shaped pylon was introduced and three races took place in Kemble (England), Budapest (Hungary) and Reno (USA).
2005: The first official Red Bull Air Race World Championship
The first official Red Bull Air Race World Championship was launched in 2005 with ten pilots battling it out in seven riveting races around the world: Abu Dhabi (UAE), Rotterdam (Netherland), Zeltweg (Austria), Rock of Cashel (Ireland), Longleat (Great Britain), Budapest (Hungary) and San Francisco (USA).
American Mike Mangold was crowned World Champion with Hungarian Peter Besenyei and American Kirby Chambliss in second and third place respectively.
2006: Eight races and 11 pilots
Eight races took place in 2006: Abu Dhabi (UAE), Barcelona (Spain), Berlin (Germany), Istanbul (Turkey), Budapest (Hungary), Longleat (Great Britain), San Francisco (USA) and Perth (Australia). 11 pilots competing for the World Championship title. This time it was Kirby Chambliss who took the title.
2007: 13 pilots
In 2007 the calendar was extended to include ten races with 13 pilots racing. The races took place in Abu Dhabi (UAE), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Monument Valley (USA), Istanbul (Turkey), Interlaken (Switzerland), London (Great Britain), Budapest (Hungary), Porto/Gaia (Portugal), San Diego (USA) and Perth (Australia). After a close battle all season between Mike Mangold and Britain’s Paul Bonhomme, Mangold reclaimed the title of Red Bull Air Race World Champion.
2008: First European World Champion
12 pilots took to the skies in 2008 in eight races around the globe: Abu Dhabi (UAE), San Diego (USA), Detroit (USA), Rotterdam (Netherland), London (Great Britain), Budapest (Hungary), Porto (Portugal) and Perth (Australia). Austria’s Hannes Arch became the first European to win the Championship.
2009: Four rookies
In 2009 15 pilots, including four rookies, will compete in six races around the globe. Since the Red Bull Air Race first began, it has developed at a rapid pace, both in terms of technology and audience response. The daring beginnings have grown into a global motor sport and a bold idea has become a success story with an exciting future ahead.