Porto (PORTUGAL) – The sixth stop of the 2017 Red Bull Air Race calendar promises to be nothing short of momentous. The location: Porto – one of Europe’s oldest centers, with stunning views over the Douro River and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The spectators: Thousands upon thousands of fans who have been eagerly awaiting the return of the 370kph action ever since the previous stops from 2007 through 2009, which smashed attendance records. The racing: 14 of the world’s best pilots, trying to fight their way clear of the pack in one of the sport’s most hotly contested seasons.
And if history repeats itself, there’s a good chance that the pilot who wins in Portugal will go on to be crowned World Champion.
The pilots who triumphed in Porto previously – Hannes Arch, Paul Bonhomme and Steve Jones – went on to become Red Bull Air Race legends. Arch, the Porto winner in 2008, finished that season with the championship trophy in his hands, and likewise Bonhomme took the 2009 title just weeks after claiming his own Porto victory. (While Jones didn’t come away with the championship following his Portuguese podium-topper in 2007, his career has also been distinguished; he is now Race Director of the Red Bull Air Race, and he partners with Bonhomme as one-half of the Red Bull Matadors demonstration team.)
Among the current contenders looking to create their own legacy in Porto will be the four men deadlocked in a tiny two-point spread at the top of the overall standings, with the USA’s Kirby Chambliss (a double titleholder who was second in Portugal in 2008) holding the lead, followed by Yoshihide Muroya of Japan, Martin Šonka of the Czech Republic and Pete McLeod of Canada. Of that elite group, only Šonka has never raced in Porto before. But across the lineup, fully 50 percent of the pilots are new to the Portuguese stop, making the results all that much more unpredictable with a precious 15 points on offer to the winner.
Start September in the city voted Best European Destination of 2017: The Red Bull Air Race in Porto on Saturday and Sunday, 2-3 September, is free for the general public, and there are a limited number of Hospitality Experience tickets still available as well.