For the love of motorsport: Air Racing pros talk wheels and wings

Many pilots and team members in the Red Bull Air Race have strong ties to ground-based motorsport in addition to their passion for airborne racing. Their understanding of what it takes to excel on wheels makes flying at a historic racetrack like Indianapolis Motor Speedway a career highlight.

"Not too many people get the chance to race at a legendary track like the Nürburgring or Indianapolis, so that's a very special feeling," says Matthias Dolderer, who clinched the 2016 World Championship by winning history's first Red Bull Air Race at "The Brickyard," and has been a guest driver in the Audi Sport TT Cup at the Nürburgring. "To me, it is also an extra motivation. Indianapolis will always be a very special location to go back to."

Dolderer's tacticians, the father-and-son team of Michael and Matthias Stock, happen to be active rally drivers, winning, for example, the international Tuscan Rewind together. They see certain similarities in the two sports: "Rally driving and air racing share many basic principles of identifying the fastest trajectories," notes the younger Stock, "especially on tracks over water." His father adds, "Energy management is a vital part of 2D and 3D motorsports. Smoothness is the key to maximise speed for both. We also use our experience in split-second decision-making and anticipation of fast-approaching targets to optimise the flight dynamics around the pylons."

Pablo Bueno, who recently joined Spain's Team Velarde as team coordinator, has raced in the Dakar Rally and served as team coordinator for the Peugeot Sport Team at the European Rally Championship. "In almost all motorsports, the athletes do a lot of kilometres, runs or laps. In MotoGP, motocross and F1, they practice for hours in each circuit before the race. And in the Dakar Rally or Enduro, being tough as they are, you can have a bad day and the day after be back in contention," he states. "But in the Red Bull Air Race, Juan flies in the track only a handful of minutes before the race. So the pilots need a bold expertise and talent to compete at the highest level. And with no margin for error. One small mistake and you are out of the race." Bueno continues, "That's why they need the help of tacticians to do all the data analysis and to predict actions and reactions. There's no time to think, so the pilot must just let himself fly."

The expert tactician who does the data analysis for Australia's Matt Hall Racing is Peter Wezenbeek, who began his career with work in the 24 Hours of Le Mans before accepting a job with the Renault Formula One team and helping Fernando Alonso to two F1 World Championships, including a role as control systems engineer. He signed on with Hall in 2014.

"There's a big difference among racing drivers in how they interact and how deep their knowledge is in regard to the technical systems," Wezenbeek comments. "When they have that understanding, they always respond well to technical improvements and enhancements, and that's a big, big bonus. Fernando Alonso was one of those – very clever. And Matt has that deep understanding as well. For an engineer like me, he's the ideal pilot to work with."

Team Goulian manager Pablo Branco feels that he, too, has found a kindred spirit in the pilot he supports, American Michael Goulian. Growing up in Brazil, Branco idolised Formula One icon Ayrton Senna, and after launching his aviation career, for many years he worked for auto racing's Piquet family, including serving as personal pilot to Nelson Piquet Jr., who remains a close friend. Branco and Goulian share a fascination not only for flying, but for motorsports in general, and they cannot wait to take off this weekend in what will be a home race for their team.

"The best drivers in the world have been at Indianapolis, and to come here as part of a racing team is such a privilege. When you drive through the tunnel and look around at the massive grandstands... and you walk through Gasoline Alley and you see the bricks, and you think of all the people who raced here... It's THE spot for motorsports in the States," Branco describes. "If you come here and watch a race as a spectator, it's amazing. And if you're here to race with your team, you put your name in history." He concludes, "It's a feeling that will stay with me forever."

Feel the history! The Red Bull Air Race flies at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the third consecutive season this weekend, get your tickets HERE.

Related articles

Analyst’s first thoughts on the Indy track

For the first time this season the pilots will enter the racetrack with previous knowledge of how to fly the best lines as the 2018 track is the same as last year. ...
Read full article

Bergér is back and tops FP timesheet in Indianapolis

In his first appearance since Budapest, Germany's Florian Bergér came flying out of the blocks and topped the timesheet, stopping the clock at 1:10.529. Dario Cos...
Read full article

Chiang conquers track record in FP3

Challenger Class leader Kenny Chiang is tightening his grip on the Challenger Class with a blistering performance in FP3 where he not only set the fastest time but bro...
Read full article
Related Pilots
Master Class Master Class

Matthias
Dolderer

 Germany GER
Current ranking Ranking
11
Race wins this year Race wins
0
Seasons completed Seasons
7
Last year ranking Last yr. ranking
12
Master Class Master Class

Juan
Velarde

 Spain ESP
Current ranking Ranking
6
Race wins this year Race wins
0
Seasons completed Seasons
4
Last year ranking Last yr. ranking
9
Master Class Master Class

Matt
Hall

 Australia AUS
Current ranking Ranking
5
Race wins this year Race wins
0
Seasons completed Seasons
7
Last year ranking Last yr. ranking
2
Master Class Master Class

Michael
Goulian

 United States USA
Current ranking Ranking
3
Race wins this year Race wins
0
Seasons completed Seasons
11
Last year ranking Last yr. ranking
3