The fourth race of the 2016 season was to also be the 70th Red Bull Air Race ever held, and it was all set up to be an remarkable contest.
It was going to be testing for the pilots of the Master Class due to the fact the weather was forecast to be challenging during Qualifying and Race Day. However, it all started in glorious sunshine for Free Practice 1 and 2 on Friday.
The teams had had very little time with their raceplanes due to the machines being transported from the previous round in Chiba, but the technicians worked exceptionally hard to ensure everything was ready in time for flying.
Juan Velarde shone in the first practice session and posted the fastest time, crossing the Finish Gate in 57.776s. Nigel Lamb was second on the timesheet and Martin Sonka third. The biggest surprise was Yoshihide Muroya, who was coming back after winning in Chiba but found himself down in 13th after exceeding the G-limit in the first training session. And after his great start to the season, Matthias Dolderer was sitting in eighth – could the start of the season been a fluke? Time would tell.
In the later session American Pilot Kirby Chambliss was fastest with a time of 57.362s. Muroya had shaken off the earlier disappointment and was second on the timesheet just 0.245s behind Chambliss.
Matt Hall who had been struggling with injures during the opening races started to show his previous form by finishing third. Dolderer had found the right line and was improving all the time finishing just behind Hall.
Budapest in Pictures
Qualifying arrived and due to unseasonal rain the race committee had to make the tough decision to cancel the day's flying. With Qualifying cancelled it meant that the Round of 14 head to heads would be arranged by championship order.
Race Day provided weather very similar to Qualifying, but there was to be a window of opportunity for the racing to go ahead. Due to the weather and the swell of the Danube the pilots were unable to start the race in the traditional way and had to fly over the Chain Bridge instead of under it.
Hannes Arch was to face Francois Le Vot in the first heat of the day. In an attempt to post a competitive time, Le Vot exceed the G-limit and ended his race early, leaving Arch to only have to fly cleanly to see himself in the Round of 8, which he duly did.
Juan Velarde was up next against Muroya and the Spanish pilot set the fastest time of the round with 59.492s. This put pressure on Muroya but the Japanese pilot flew perfectly. He was behind Velarde but by only 0.155s – enough to see him through as the fastest loser.
Hall was the only other pilot to fly under a minute and went through when his rival Martin Sonka exceeded the G-limit. This set up a thrilling Round of 8.
Nicolas Ivanoff was to fly against Hall in the first heat of the Round of 8. Hall was unstoppable with a time of 59.236s and when Ivanoff picked up a two second penalty for incorrect flying level through a gate he was never going to beat Hall's time.
Arch was to face Nigel Lamb in Heat 9. Lamb was slow in his run and posted a time of 1:01.689. Arch smashed through that time and crossed the Finish Gate 2.747s quicker than the British pilot.
Heat 10 was to see Kirby Chambliss and Yoshihide Muroya face off. Chambliss went through after Muroya picked up a two second penalty for incorrect level through an Air Gate.
In the final heat of the Round of 8, championship leader Matthias Dolderer was to face Juan Velarde. Velarde had a terrible run picking up four seconds in penalties. That left the door open for Dolderer to just fly cleanly, but the competitive German flew as hard as possible and posted a time of 58.653s – the fastest of the day.
When the Round of 8 was completed the weather started to close in and the Race Committee had to make another tough choice. They decided that there would be no Final 4 and that the pilots would receive 75% of the points normally awarded for a race win.
This meant that Matthias Dolderer was crowned the king of Budapest. Hannes Arch second with Matt Hall, on the podium for the first time in 2016, third.
After Budapest it was the halfway point of the season and it was all to play for...