Air Race Pilots Soar At Red Bull Race Day In Switzerland
More than 36,000 motorsport fans flocked to Red Bull Race Day on 10-11 August, as the two-day event showcased the best in motorsport at the Swiss Heritage Site of Grenchen. Among the headliners was a Red Bull Air Race Demo featuring two of the most well-known names in the World Championship, Matthias Dolderer of Germany and Nicolas Ivanoff of France, who flew high-speed, high-G demos in a racetrack featuring the sport’s 25-metre-high pylons.
Grenchen is renowned for the meticulous craftsmanship of its watchmaking, but there was a different kind of precision on display at Red Bull Race Day, as fans thrilled to the sight of rare and impressive aircraft and motor vehicles in action at Grenchen Airport. From a Formula 1 racecar to a vintage P-38 "Lightning,” an orchestrated show also featured drifting, freestyle motocross, karting, aerobatic displays by the Flying Bulls and much more, including the Red Bull Air Race Demo.
In their head-to-head demos, Dolderer and Ivanoff flew individually against the clock through a simplified, straight-line racetrack, executing all the Air Racing maneuvers performed in the World Championship at speeds of up to 370 km/h and enduring forces up to 12G. Race Director Steve Jones presided from the tower as Dolderer and Ivanoff flew in the track.
The event marked Air Racing’s long-awaited return to Switzerland, after Bern was host to a Red Bull Air Race stop in the 2007 season. Ivanoff competed there, and Dolderer, while not yet a member of the World Championship lineup, flew “G-flights” to give a taste of the sport to media and VIPs.
Subsequently, when Ivanoff decided to make major improvements to his aeroplane, he chose Grenchen as the base for the work. “I know Grenchen well. Ten years ago we redesigned and modified my aeroplane here to make it a true raceplane, and so from being here almost at the beginning of my racing career to flying in Grenchen now is closing a good loop,” said the Team Hamilton pilot, who is the most successful French pilot in the history of the sport.
That loop is closing just before the season finale, which takes place in Chiba, Japan on 7-8 September. As a result, Ivanoff and Dolderer did not have access to their competitive raceplanes for the demos, because their aircraft were already en route to Asia. But that did not stop the pilots, who are good friends as well as racing rivals, from going all out in the Swiss racetrack as live commentary explained the manoeuvres to the crowd.
“Once you jump in the plane to fly, the demo really is like a race – you get feelings like you have in the Master Class of the World Championship. We’re competitive and we want to fly fast!” Ivanoff explained.
Dolderer, who with his Matthias Dolderer Racing team won the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in 2016, commented, “It is a pleasure to take part. I love to show the public what we do – our passion and our sport. And this was a fantastic opportunity to bring this kind of flying back to Switzerland. We appreciate every second in the racetrack, especially in front of a great crowd at such a nice airport, and also the opportunity to bring the sport close to the public.”
He continued, “And because it’s just for fun, even though we feel competitive, there’s no pressure. We have had a wonderful time together here, Nicolas and the Red Bull Air Race crew and I, and I think the crowds had fun as well. It’s been an awesome weekend.”