The return of the Red Bull Air Race in 2014 is a dream-come-true for the pilots who helped build the high-speed, low-altitude racing into a popular motorsport watched by millions of fans around the world. The seasoned pilots all said they had remained confident the Red Bull Air Race would return and spent the last three years during the sport's reorganisation phase keeping their aeroplanes, bodies and minds in peak condition.
Reigning champion Paul Bonhomme of Britain, who was the most successful pilot in the eight-year history of the sport, says he can hardly wait until the racing resumes, a sentiment echoed by the other pilots. Bonhomme won the last two Red Bull Air Race World Championships in 2009 and 2010 before the three-year break to reorganise, strengthen development and commercial aspects of the race. He said he was thrilled that the competition would be back in 2014 even though he knows his work will be cut out for him to defend his back-to-back titles with an ever-improving field on his heels.
"I've missed the flying in the Red Bull Air Race because the competitive racing is just fantastic for the pilots," said Bonhomme. "We're all going to start afresh now. I'm already thinking about how to advance, how to win or even just do well to start with. I've got a lot of experience to fall back on, which I'll be using going into the next world championship."
Like the other pilots, Bonhomme said he put his racing plane in hibernation for the break and kept busy flying in air shows, watching his family grow with the birth of two more children and resuming his career as a commercial pilot flying 747s around the world.
Austria's Hannes Arch, the 2008 Red Bull Air Race World Champion who finished a close second to Bonhomme in the 2010 season that featured a first-ever stop in New York City, was always optimistic that the racing would return. He spent the last three years flying air shows and stayed in great shape cycling and mountain climbing.
"I thought all along that if the Red Bull Air Race comes back it would be the best thing that could happen to us," said Arch. "I was always positive about its return and I'm really glad it's coming back. On the other hand, I know how much hard work lies ahead for all of us. We're all competitors and we all want to win. There are going to be big changes in my life now."
Nigel Lamb of Britain, who had a career-best third place overall in 2010 on the strength of three podiums in the six races, was also delighted when he found out the race would be back.
"During the last three years I moved on to other things and kept myself busy but was always hoping the Red Bull Air Race would come back," added Lamb, who managed aviation projects and did commercials for his sponsor Breitling. "This is great news. It's what we've all been waiting for. There are a lot of lessons that we've learned and a lot of knowledge to carry forward. We're all hoping to make the championship better and more exciting than it ever."