SPIELBERG, Austria — The second stop of the 2016 Red Bull Air Race World Championship marked a literal high point: At 677 meters above sea level, the famed Red Bull Ring claims the top elevation of the eight-race season.
Ahead of training at the state-of-the-art Formula One track, home-country hero Hannes Arch took Czech pilots Martin Šonka and Petr Kopfstein even higher with a personal tour of the mountains he calls home.
An added thrill: Joining the flight was the historic Chance Vought F4U-4 “Corsair” aircraft — one of only about 15 Corsairs left in the world — that’s part of the vintage fleet curated by The Flying Bulls organization at the Hangar-7 aircraft museum in Salzburg.
The Austrian Alps provide some of the most spectacular vistas on the planet, and viewing them from their glass-enclosed cockpits allowed the pilots to experience the full power and majesty of nature. An expert mountaineer as well as an elite competitor in the racetrack, Arch feels a deep connection with the Alps and revealed breathtaking angles of famous crags like the Schafberg, with its surrounding lakes, and the towering twin peaks of the 2,458-meter Bischofsmütze.
A Styrian native who won the World Championship in 2008, Arch will be looking for his first-ever home victory when the Red Bull Air Race visits Spielberg for the third time on April 23-24.
To earn it, the Austrian will have to battle not only Šonka and Kopfstein – who expect crowds of supporters from the Czech Republic – but 11 more pilots in a talent-packed field that includes Australia’s Matt Hall, who was the overall runner-up in 2015, and the men currently placed first and second in the standings, Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA) and Matthias Dolderer (GER).