As is well documented, there's a unique element to the race at Budapest; the pilots enter the track by flying under the Chain Bridge. It's a heart-pumping moment in the race and something worth seeing. For two pilots, it will be their first time trying this challenging manoeuvre.
Peter Podlunsek and Petr Kopfstein are the two pilots who will be flying under the bridge for the first time tomorrow. Both pilots graduated from the Challenger Class to the Master Class for the 2016 season – and the race in Budapest will be the first time either of them has navigated their way under the Chain Bridge before entering the track.
It can be a daunting prospect, but these highly skilled athletes take it all in their stride. "I'm quite excited about it, I've been watching videos and it's a narrow space between the bridge and the water – it will be a challenge," said Peter Podlunsek. "We have to do some practice exercises with the pylons at the race airport. We have a max clearance of 10m and we have to make sure we fly straight and level underneath it," he explained.
Kopfstein and Podlunsek have to complete training runs - these consist of flights through an Air Gate that has been set up at the race airport. "We set up a stanchion [a tape made from the same material as police tape] across the pylons, positioned at the same height as the bridge," said Race Director Jim DiMatteo. "It helps the pilot to train their eyes and focus on the level they have to fly. But it's not just about flying under the bridge, as soon as they have done that, they enter the track. So we don't want them to focus on the bridge and forget about the track, or vice versa," he added.
Although when the two pilots take on the bridge tomorrow it might cause some concerns, the pilots have it all under control. "I'm excited. We just have to get it right! I can't see it being a problem," explained Kopfstein.
"It won't be like flying through a gate - we have to fly under it at speed and the colour of the water is not very pilot friendly – it's going to be difficult, but as I said, I'm excited," concluded Podlunsek.