RED BULL AIR RACE
Lately we have been witness to a slow and in a sense quite inevitable biological process i.e. the extinction of primal man, a process that could leave us with a population of effeminate and androgenous male members of society. But let’s hold that thought for a moment, as today’s topic isn’t about social changes, but rather about the few remaining events that are still fueled by high levels of testosterone and adrenaline. The guys behind Red Bull’s events are well aware of the things that drive us and almost all of their events are driven by this same propellant. This doesn’t at all mean that their events aren’t attended by women, but it is definitely octane enthusiasts who reap the most satisfaction from them, and in most cases they happen to be of the male gender.
The Red Bull Air Race is a modern phenomenon of great magnitude and significance. It is one of the most challenging international events to pull off, easily comparable with the organisation of an F1 event. Transforming 2 kilometres of coastline by the Donau River into a first-class event venue is nothing short of amazing. Nothing was left to chance and spectator safety is always a priority with events of this scale and type. The second thing is keeping the guests entertained throughout the three-day programme, packed with energy and accompanying events. Numerous event agencies and catering companies working with the organisers make sure everyone is fed and is having a great time. The full scale of the preparations requires over 1,000 workers and takes about 10 days to complete. According to unofficial data, Budapest’s investment in the event was around 5 million EUR and the full range of expenses exceeded 15 million.
The race is an international head-to-head battle of the best acrobatic pilots in the world, an event with huge media coverage and promotional potential. Budapest’s hosting of the race is a great example of how a destination can benefit from these kinds of events. Spectators from all over the globe flooded the Hungarian capital, predominantly coming from the Czech Republic ready to cheer on their gladiator of the sky, Martin Sonka. Tens of thousands of visitors watched the planes whizz between pylons and over 500 million watched from their TV screens at home. The city itself was completely packed and finding a free hotel room was quite a challenge.
A Mecca for petrol-heads
Budapest has always been a host of large-scale motorsport events and the night after Red Bull’s action-packed battles in the sky, drivers of some of the rarest and most expensive supercars revved their engines at Heroes’ Square, one of the stops of this year’s Gumball 3000 Rally. The main focus was definitely put on the legendary Hungaroring race circuit that is hosting the F1 GrandPrix at the end of July. These kind of international events are a great opportunity for destinations to build on recognisability and Budapest has been doing a great job of positioning itself on the world tourist map.
A special story that fills me with pride is the story of Peter Podlunšek, a fellow Slovenian, whose galactic success seems to be overlooked by the Slovenian public. From a meeting planner’s perspective, the Red Bull Air Race is definitely on a Formula 1 level. The Slovenian media would go absolutely crazy if they heard a racer from our country is winning F1 races, but that is exactly what the pilot from Prekmurje is doing on the Air Race, and yet he is somehow invisible to any kind of news reports. Becoming a Red Bull Master Class pilot is the dream of every acrobatic pilot – it’s a forum of fierce personalities, outstanding athletes, and skills that allow them to fly between the pylons at speeds of over 400km/h. His performance in Budapest wasn’t the best because of technical issues and an injury, but I believe he will make this up with excellent results in the future.
Among all of the host destinations of the race, Budapest is the one that truly milked its opportunity and directly benefited from the event. We will talk about how they did it in the September issue of Kongres Magazine.
Peter Podlunšek is the first Slovenian pilot to compete for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship. Having long been the top aerobatic pilot in his country, Podlunšek initially expanded his skillset to air racing with two seasons in the Red Bull Air Race Challenger Class, earning four race podiums as well as runner-up in the Challenger Cup Championship.
Despite a steep learning curve when he moved to the Master Class in 2016, the pilot earned his first World Championship points in only his second race, and he continued to impress with a strong dedication to training and technical progression throughout his debut season.
Core members of Team Peter Podlunšek Racing include team coordinator Katja Papič, technician Dax Wanless and tactician Boštjan Dečman, with the addition of media coordinator Tina Torelli, social media manager Marko Filipič, and video producer Jože Glažar. All share their pilot’s keen interest in innovation, which has resulted in race plane modifications such as the striking downturned wingtips.