The 2018 Red Bull Air Race season got off to a flying start in Abu Dhabi over the weekend of 2-3 February. Abu Dhabi is no stranger to the Red Bull Air Race circuit and this year marked the 11th time this flying spectacle visited the stunning blue waters of the Arabian Gulf. The fans were able to witness all the action from the purpose-built race village on the Corniche breakwater, with unrivalled views of the race and the UAE capital's impressive skyline.
Abu Dhabi was of great interest to all South African aviation enthusiasts as for the first time ever a SA pilot would be taking part in the Challenger Class of the Red Bull world Championships. Patrick Davidson has not only claimed multiple national championships here at home and podiums on the world stage, but he's also a leading display pilot who performs for audiences globally.
Born in 1982, Davidson has aviation in his blood, as both his father and grandfather were renowned display pilots. Growing up at airfields with his dad as his mentor and trainer, young Patrick was eager to get behind the controls himself. He earned his private pilot licence at age 17, and by 25 he became South Africa's youngest aerobatic champion, securing a berth in his first FAI World Aerobatic Championship.
In the decade since, Davidson has not only added more national titles to his name, but his numerous podiums at the World Championships include highlights such as third place overall in individual competition, as well as silver medals with Team RSA. He has clinched wins and podiums at a variety of other prestigious international events as far afield as China, and he was named Aero Club South Africa's pilot of the year in 2014 and 2016.
Michael Goulian was crowned the Master Class winner after a very hard fought battle, Yoshihide Muroya took second place followed by Kirby Chambliss in third.
The Challenger Class top spot was taken by Florian Berger followed by Luke Czepiela and Kevin Coleman, Patrick didn’t managed a sixth place in this his first outing.
The Red Bull roadshow then made its way to Cannes in France on the 20 to 22 April for the second instalment of the 2018 season. With five French pilots in the series (three Masters, two Challengers) it promised to be one to remember.
Matt Hall narrowly took the win with Matthias Dolderer taking second with less than a 100th of a second separating them, Michael Goulian came in third placing him at the top of the seasons leadership board.
In the Challenger Class Daniel Ryfa took top honours with Baptiste Vignes and Dario Costa taking second and third respectively. Patrick improved on his performance from Abu Dhabi by one position he managed a sixth place in Cannes.
After less than a month break the teams travelled to Chiba Japan, Home-grown hero Yoshihide Muroya pulled off a stunning victory here in both 2016 and last year when the Japanese pilot was on a course to the 2017 World Championship title, unfortunately for Yoshihide history didn’t repeat itself and he had to be content with a fourteenth place.
Matt Hall once again walked away with the Master Class spoils, forcing Michael Goulian into second and Martin Sonka in third.
The Challenger Class did not compete in Chiba.
Two months later, 23-24 June, the Red Bull Air Race retuned to “Spiritual Home” for its mid-season competition in the Hungarian Capital of Budapest. In previous years over 650000 spectators lined the banks of the Danube to watch the top pilots go head to head. Budapest is a true spectacle on the race calendar due to the unique start for the Master Class pilots. They begin their run into the track by flying under the iconic Chain Bridge.
The Master Class was once again a close fought battle with Martin Sonka emerging victorious ahead of Mika Bargeot in second place, followed by Matt Hall in third.
Luke Czepiela took the top step of the Challenger Class podium with Florian Berger and Daniel Genevey biting at his proverbial heels, unfortunately Patrick did not compete in this round as he had other commitments.
The Red Bull Air Race returned to Russia for the second time in the motorsport's history. The pilots touched down in Kazan 25-26 August. Kazan is the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan in Russia and home to more than a million people. The city lies at the meeting point of the River Volga and Kazanka River, which is overlooked by the Kazan Kremlin a World Heritage Site.
Martin Sonka once again out performed his rivals to earn his second victory of the season, Michael Goulian, who by now was becoming the most consistent pilot of the Master Class managed second place followed by Kirby Chambliss in third.
The Challenger Class was a very tight affair with Kevin Coleman just managing to knock Patrick Davidson, who achieved the fastest qualifying time, into second place. Kenny Chiang finished in third place more than a second off the pace, Kazan marked Patrick Davidson’s first podium finish and this after only three outings.
The Red Bull Air Race returned to its Austrian roots, 15-16 September, for the sixth race of the season as it landed in the stunning town of Wiener Neustadt. This would be the first of the land based race on the 2018 calendar.
Set in the Lower Austrian Alps near the capital city of Vienna, Wiener Neustadt is the perfect spot for the Red Bull Air Race to return to the country where on the 28 June, 15 years ago the series began! With the crisp mountain air making it perfect for racing it had the potential to be the race of the season.
Martin Sonka proved to be too much for the field and he took his third consecutive victory of the season, Yoshihide Muroya managed second with Matt Hall in third.
The Challenger Class was extended to two races to make up for the lost leg in Cannes, race one was won by Kenny Chiang followed by Daniel Ryfa and Baptiste Vignes. Patrick managed fourth but was disappointed with himself as he was a bit too enthusiastic and received a penalty for going over the G-limit. Kenny Chiang managed a win in race two as well, making him the first pilot to win a “double header”. Second place belonged to Luke Czepiela with Baptiste Vignes ending third and getting his second podium finish of the weekend.
After a spectacular debut in 2016, and hosting the 2017 season finale, the Red Bull Air Race returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana, USA for the penultimate race of the season. Home to the world's biggest single-day sporting event – the historic Indianapolis 500 – and host to the likes of Formula One and NASCAR, the city is primed and ready for full-throttle, no-holds-barred racing.
The pilots battled for World Championship points in the racetrack above the world's first purpose-built motor speedway, in an aerial racetrack designed to push them to their limits. Indianapolis is the first US-based stop in 2018 and fans witnessed adrenaline-packed action unfolded above the Motor Speedway 06-07 October.
In The Master Class Michael Goulian became the first American pilot to win over home soil since 2008 when he put in a spectacular performance to take the top spot on the podium and also moved top of the World Championship standings. Pete McLeod manged to edge past Nicolas Ivanoff, to take second place, relegating Ivanoff to third spot.
The Challenger Class Florian Berger managed and excellent run that put him ahead of Kevin Coleman who finished in second just in front of Patrick Davidson who was once again on the podium.
The Competition then moved to the final venue of the 2018 season, Fort Worth Texas, the Lone Star State welcomes back the Red Bull Air Race to the Texas Motor Speedway for the third time. The speedway is one of the largest sports stadiums in America and, despite only opening its doors in 1997, has already garnered a reputation as 'The Great American Speedway'. The 1.5-mile quad-oval superspeedway is famous for entertaining NASCAR fans from across the US with the venue boasting a crowd capacity of 190,000.
Martin Sonka came out victorious in the Master Class race, followed by Matt Hall in second and Kirby Chambliss in third. This win was enough earn Martin the Title of Red Bull Air Race Master Class Champion for 2018.
In the Challenger Class Luke Czepiela managed to keep the field at bay to win both the race and the series Florian Berger managed a very close second place just ahead of Kevin Coleman in third.
Patrick didn’t take part in the final leg of 2018 but still managed to end seventh on the Final Standings which is a great achievement for his first year. Patrick we will all be watching you very closely in the New Year and we wish you all the best.