As the Red Bull Air Race World Championship returns to Budapest, Hungary for the ninth time, the only thing more fascinating than watching the raceplanes dart under the Chain Bridge will be witnessing which pilot has the edge to win. In a season where predictions have proved meaningless, 14 pilots share the confidence – and worry – of knowing that anyone can win. And one Hungarian former race pilot will be watching closely as the 70th Red Bull Air Race takes to the skies.
If the latest trend continues, it’ll be a team that has never won before. At the previous stop in Chiba, Japan, home pilot Yoshihide Muroya earned his first victory. And at the stop before that in Spielberg, Austria, Germany’s Matthias Dolderer claimed his own maiden win. With those two triumphs, all four pilots who debuted in the “Class of 2009” have come into their own, but there’s another charger waiting in the wings: Martin Šonka of the Czech Republic. Šonka has clinched four podiums since his racing debut in 2010 – including second place just weeks ago in Chiba – and he missed the overall podium by the smallest of margins in 2015. With Budapest close to home, fan support could finally lift him to the pinnacle, just as it did for Muroya and Dolderer.