Matthias Dolderer doesn't hold back
If you have never heard of the Red Bull Air Race you should probably check it out. The competition consists of rather small planes, zipping in and out of air filled pylons, at speeds of around 400 km/h, 50 meters from the ground. Mind = Blown.
The first race of the eight stage season will be coming to Abu Dhabi this weekend and is definately worth a watch. Before the pilots take to the air and begin performing their death defying circuits agaisnt the clock, we had a chance to sit down with Matthias Dolderer, last years world champion of the Red Bull Air Race.
ESQ: So you were world champion last season, how do you feel going into the beginning of this one?
Matthias Dolderer: Good. To be honest, everyone is trying to be world champion and they are also trying to find out what we have previously done to make it happen. We simply stick to the goal, which is try our best to continuously improve and stay ahead but anything can happen and nothing is guaranteed. Every race is very tight.
You have previously said your team was great last year and you don't want to change it at all this year, what was it that made it so successful?
I think our mind set and preparation. Our goal is always the same, to win and because of that we approach things in a certain way, which works. It makes sense to keep everything the same as last season.
What is it about flying that fascinates you?
Well, first of all its the freedom to get off the ground and to be able to control the machine that is doing so. With the Red Bull Air Race, we control and push machines to the edge of whats possible, constantly challenging boundaries. In racing the fascination also comes from performing at low altitude with high speed, between obstacles. I mean if your not in the air race and fly like we do then you can say goodbye to your license, its not allowed, we go as low as 50 meters from the ground, whilst travelling at high speeds.
You once said that the Red Bull Air Race is like parking in a garage at 400km/h, can you expand on that?
Well, when you fly through an air gate where the two pylons are twelve meters apart and your aeroplane has a wingspan of roughly 8 meters, you ultimately have two meters left on either side of the plane. From a kilometre away the gates look easily do-able but the closer you get the narrower the gap gets. We don't often fly at a 90 degree angle through gates but we do cut it fine and sometimes only have 5 -10 centimetres of space left before the wing cuts the pylon, at that point its pretty narrow. That’s why I compare it with parking in a garage at 400km/h, if you want to try it just increase your speed going into the garage and you will suddenly see how narrow it gets.
Do you fly any other planes?
Yes. In my life I have flown over 150 different planes. Business jets, warbirds, gliders, just everything really.
Yes helicopters as well.
All of them must be dull compared to the air race?
Well every aeroplane has very different characteristics. They are not dull, just a different type of fun.
You grew up in an air field with your first solo flight at 14, if that wasn't the case do you think you would still have become a competitive pilot?
Well that’s hard to say. I was born into aviation but when I grew up the air race didn't exist so I didn't have a target such as ‘make it to the Red Bull Air Race’. However, when I saw the first ever air race in 2003, I said I need to compete in that, thats a really cool event. Three years later I started putting everything towards it and now I am living it.
Tickets for the Red Bull Air Race Abu Dhabi are avaliable here