Date of Birth: 18 March 1978
First Race: 2016
Race Team: Team Spielberg
Before joining the Master Class of the Red Bull Air Race in 2016, Czech pilot Petr Kopfstein claimed seven race podiums in the Challenger Class and the crown of 2014 Challenger Cup Champion. But even with that stellar background, his rapid rise in the World Championship was remarkable, rocketing to fifth overall at the end of only his second season, 2017. Kopfstein has already proven that he can fly with the best in the world, and with new raceplane improvements, Team Spielberg fans are hoping to see him on the top of the podium for the first time in 2019.
Kopfstein dreamed of flying from childhood and signed up for piloting lessons with the first money he made while at university. He had an immediate affinity for high-G flying. “I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he recalls.
Kopfstein both completed a master’s degree in Economics from the University of Prague and honed his skills in national and international competitions. He joined the Czech Aerobatic Team in 2007 and earned the Czech National Championship in four categories including Unlimited, as well as Unlimited podiums at the German and Hungarian championships.
While he’s passionate about sport in all its forms, from snowboarding to scuba diving, Kopfstein finds that nothing beats being in the air. So far, he has accumulated more than 1,500 hours flying more than 30 aircraft, including helicopters, and he also uses wind tunnels to train in the skydiving discipline of freeflying.
After his early success in the Challenger Class of the Red Bull Air Race, Kopfstein made steady progress in his debut 2016 season in the World Championship. But 2017 was his breakout year, as he earned his career-first Master Class podium with second place at Chiba, Japan, and delivered consistently strong results with a smooth style of flying that some insiders are comparing to the all-time greats.
Kopfstein’s flying was so consistent in 2018 that he incurred only one Race Day penalty all season, but an underperforming engine resulted in an uncanny string of five ninth-place finishes before he broke through with fifth place at Wiener Neustadt. So anticipation is high now that Team Spielberg has a new engine for 2019.
“We have always worked hard,” says Kopfstein, “but last season provided us with motivation which we have never felt before. Our plan for 2019 is in full swing, and we are aiming for the highest positions again!”
Red Bull Air Race World Championship:
Overall – 13th 2018, 5th 2017, 14th 2016; Best race finish – 2nd place Chiba, Japan, 2017
Red Bull Air Race Challenger Class:
Challenger Cup Champion 2014; seven Challenger Class race podiums – 1st place Ascot and Chiba 2015, Spielberg 2014; 2nd place Spielberg and Abu Dhabi 2015, Las Vegas and Putrajaya 2014
Czech National Aerobatic Champion in Unlimited, Advanced, Intermediate and Sportsman categories, as well as Unlimited three-time 2nd place; 2nd place and 3rd place at Hungarian Unlimited National Championship; 3rd place at German National Freestyle Championship in Unlimited category