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Red Bull adds two pilots to race rosterRed Bull adds two pilots to race roster

For the 2016 Red Bull Air Race season, pilot Petr Kopfstein of the Czech Republic is moving up from the Challenger Class to the Master Class with Slovenia's Peter Podlunsek. Photo courtesy of Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Content Pool.

Two Red Bull pilots sharing similar first names are moving up from the Challenger to the Master Class, where they will compete against a dozen others for the 2016 Red Bull Air Race World Championship crown.

The Czech Republic’s Petr Kopfstein built a strong case for joining the Master Class with seven podium finishes over two seasons including the 2014 Challenger Cup championship. Kopfstein also notched four category wins in his country’s national aerobatic championship.

Peter Podlunšek is Slovenia’s top aerobatic pilot and an eight-time national aerobatic champion. Podlunšek, who has been flying aerobatic aircraft for more than two decades, was runner-up for the 2015 Challenger Cup championship and is the first Slovenian pilot included in Master Class competition. Podlunšek stood on the podium four times during his Challenger race career.

The Challenger Cup of the Red Bull Air Race was introduced in 2014 to help the next generation of race pilots develop skills in maneuvering through aerial racetracks at high speed and low altitude, according to a Jan. 19 Red Bull news release. The door to the Master Class was opened for the newcomers when 2015 Red Bull Air Race world champion Paul Bonhomme, of Britain, and Hungary’s Peter Besenyei, retired.

A pair of new venues—the renowned Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Germany’s EuroSpeedway Lausitz—promises to make Kopfstein and Podlunšek’s 2016 freshman seasons challenging when racing season begins in Abu Dhabi March 11 and 12.

“It is a great honor to become part of the unique group of aviators in the Master Class. The first year will be a season of learning, testing and tuning, but all of us on my team want to do it quickly and become competitive as soon as possible,” Kopfstein said in the news release. “While we have high ambitions, it will be a tough and challenging season.”

“Joining the Master Class is a dream come true,” said Podlunšek. “As we start from zero, my teammates and I will first have to see how we function together as a team and eventually become the best we can be. Our strategy is flying safe and smart.”

Veteran pilot Matt Hall of Australia has been contending in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship since 2009 and will be entering the coming air race season as the highest-ranked Master Class pilot.

Hall said in the release, “I’ve watched the Challenger Cup over the past two years and have been impressed with the progression and attitude of all the pilots, and obviously Peter and Petr have demonstrated that. I am looking forward to having them join us in the Master Class hangars.”

Red Bull races also will stop in Spielberg, Austria; Japan; Budapest, Hungary; Ascot, Great Britain; and Las Vegas, Nevada.

Red Bull Air Race pilot Peter Podlunsek of Slovenia is moving up from the Challenger Class to the Master Class, along with Petr Kopfstein of the Czech Republic. Photo courtesy of Samo Vidic/Red Bull Content Pool.
David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a seaplane-rated private pilot who enjoys vintage aircraft, aerobatic flying, and photography.
Topics: Air Racing, Events, Pilots

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