In the Red Bull Air Race World Championships, the goal is to go head-to-head against 14 of the world’s best race pilots to complete a course of 25-meter high air gates in highly maneuverable, lightweight planes as quickly as possible. If you happen to brush one of the inflatable pylons, you incur penalty seconds. The pylons tear immediately on contact. Of course, Hannes Arch wouldn’t be a Red Bull Race Champion if he didn’t constantly search for new challenges. Gazing on the Tauern Wind Park in his Styrian homeland, the native of Trofaiach had often played with the idea of attempting a slalom flight in Oberzeiring: “If, as a Red Bull Air Race pilot, you have such a windfarm at your front door and fly past it, it’s no wonder that you also want to fly through it at some point!” Wind turbines don’t bend, and that’s precisely why the idea of flying in between such massive “gates” had such an irresistible appeal for the Austrian pilot. He assures us: “Respect is of ultimate importance, and without my experience as a Red Bull Air Race pilot I would never have given flying between them a second thought.” The Tauern Wind Park lies at 1900 meters above sea level and, with its 14 wind turbines, is the highest windfarm in Austria, also one of the highest in the world.
With official permission from the authorities in consultation with Wind Park management, and after intensive preparations, just a few days ago Hannes Arch finally powered his way between the 60 meters-high wind turbines in the Niedere Tauern mountains, realizing the wish he had been nurturing for so long. After the flight at over 300 km/h and stresses on his body of as much as 6 G, the Styrian was absolutely beaming as one of the few, if not the first person ever to fly a slalom route through a wind park: “I don’t know if a pilot has ever done anything comparable. Regardless, I am super happy that I was privileged to have such an experience”, and the Austrian continues: “One of the greatest challenges in comparison to the Red Bull Air Race is having to adapt far more to the natural conditions. In the middle of the mountains, you are rising and falling. You can’t fly as close to the obstacles, which increases the radius, and, at around 300 km/h, things can get a bit tight. Every second, you have to be perfectly clear in your mind that you have wind turbines in front of you and need to know precisely what you are going to do next. Though it has nothing to do with the Red Bull Air Race, it’s every bit as much fun, with the added benefit that it’s not about the time you clock. Things will get really serious again at the next race in Spielberg!”
Hannes Arch loves his home region, the mountains and flying – all of which came together in the premiere of the “Wind Park Rally” in Oberzeiring. For the passionate pilot, this flight was a perfect change of pace in order to clear his mind for the next important race. The anticipation of his fans and the atmosphere at the Red Bull Ring are a real motivator for Hannes Arch, of course. Plus, the local hero still has an account to settle at the Spielberg. He wants to celebrate the home victory he has sought for so long, having missed out on the 2014 World Championship title by a whisker, and touching the first pylon in last year’s race, which immediately put him out of contention. Awaiting fans in Spielberg on 23/24 April will be an enthralling motorsports competition along with a first-class program of side events. Tickets and complete information are available at www.redbullairrace.com/de_AT/event/spielberg-2016.