16 Jul 2016

‘Founding father’ of the Red Bull Air Race honoured in Budapest

The founding father of the Red Bull Air Race, Peter Besenyei, was honoured at the Red Bull Air Race in Budapest, on Saturday 16 July 2016.

Besenyei was given a unique memorial coffee-table book that featured highlights from his 15-year career with the Red Bull Air Race.

Considered by many as the ‘godfather’ of the Red Bull Air Race, Besenyei was in at the beginning back in 2001 when the air racing concept was first being developed. Since then he has spent every season competing, until his retirement last year at the age 60.

Presenting the book, Erich Wolf, general manager of the Red Bull Air Race said: “I want to thank you for all that you did for the Red Bull Air Race and I hope you are going to fly a lot of air shows in the future. I wish you the best."

Wolf added: ”A new period started when Peter set up the foundation for this sport.”

One of the world’s best aerobatic pilots, Besenyei spent 40 years competing at the highest level in the sport of powered aerobatics.

Born in Hungary in 1956, Besenyei first saw aerobatic flying when he was only six-years-old. His first flight was in a glider when he was 15. Aged 20 he entered his first gliding competition, finishing in second place.

In his twenties he moved into powered aerobatics, where he won several national and international titles throughout his 40-year career. His first gold medal was at the Austrian National Championships in 1982.

His speciality is freestyle aerobatics, and he created several unique manoeuvres, including the Knife-Edge Spin. In 1995 he was named the “most successful aerobatics pilot of all time”.

In 2001 Red Bull asked him to help develop the concept of air racing, which he did with enthusiasm. He helped set the rules and regulations, and hand-picked the first Red Bull Air Race pilots. The first race was held in 2003 in Zeltweg, Austria, and two years later the concept of an international world series was launched.

As well as competing, Bessenyei is a test pilot for the Hungarian Aviation Office, a flying instructor for aerobatic pilots on the Zivko Edge 540, and a display pilot. He also enjoys fishing, photography and sky diving.

Receiving the book, Besenyei spoke about his decision to retire at the end of 2015. "I stopped racing last year, it wasn't an easy decision and I had been thinking about it for two years.

“I’ve been competing in aviation for 40 years and I had to say stop. I miss the guys, the pilots – my friends. And I miss flying in the track. I was able to fly in the track [in Budapest] three times on Thursday and I was super, super happy."

He added: "My heart will always beat for the Red Bull Air Race. It's a great event with a great future. Thanks to Red Bull for giving us the chance to create this sport and for me to be part of it. Thank you to all the fans and all the guys that work on it.”