After four seasons in the Red Bull Air Race, the sport's first pilot from Slovenia, Peter Podlunšek, has announced his retirement.
The popular aviator promises fans that he's got a new chapter in store, and in the meantime, there's still one more chance to see him race: in the season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, USA on 14-15 October.
Peter Podlunšek's tireless work ethic, keen attention to detail and innovative mindset have made a mark on the sport that is indelible, and his strong rapport with fans has sparked heightened interest in aviation at home in Slovenia.
An eight-time Slovenian National Aerobatic champion who also represented his country at the European and World levels, Podlunšek got his start in the Red Bull Air Race as an original member of the Challenger Class when it launched in 2014. He claimed a podium at his very first race, with a third-place finish in Rovinj, Croatia. Two more Challenger Class podiums followed before the pilot achieved his Master Class Super Licence at the end of 2015. He was then successful in securing a place in the Master Class in the quest for the 2016 World Championship.
Once again, Podlunšek quickly impressed the racing world, advancing to the elite Round of 8 in only his second race, a snowy showdown in Spielberg, Austria.
Podlunsek's racing career in pictures
"I still can't believe it," he said after the tense race. "Today was a big surprise, collecting my first World Championship points. I felt my flying improved with every round."
Team Podlunšek's flying continued to improve, and so did his raceplane, which is renowned as one of the fastest in the field thanks to the dedication from the entire Peter Podlunsek Racing Team. (It is also one of the most striking, with a paint scheme conceived by famed motorsport designer Aldo Drudi.) Perhaps the most noticeable of many ingenious technical modifications implemented by Team Peter Podlunšek Racing was downward-pointing wingtips, which raised eyebrows at first and soon piqued the curiosity of other teams, especially when the Slovenian flew them to second place at San Diego, California last April.
Team Peter Podlunsek Racing's successes have continued, most recently soaring to the top of the timesheet by a large margin at the very first Free Practice on September's tight track in Porto, Portugal. Along the way, Peter has attracted a wide and exceptionally devoted fan base, who flock to see him at races and for special events at his home base in Murska Sobota. While the 47-year-old says it's difficult to leave the Air Racing ranks, he assures those supporters that they won't be losing sight of him.
"Being a professional racing athlete has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. We have formed an amazing team and achieved more than I could have ever imagined. I have been so fortunate to travel to some beautiful places, compete against the best in the world, and forge many friendships. Those life-changing experiences and memories will stay with me forever." Podlunšek declares.
"I'm very grateful to everyone who has followed, supported and believed in me over the years of racing and to those who have been supportive of all my decisions so far. I will miss the sheer speed and competition, but I'm very much looking forward to my new challenges that await ahead. My passion for new experiences and new challenges is my focus. My future will, of course, involve sports. Nothing will replace the adrenalin rush of competing in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship, but this is a new chapter in my life, one I am excited about, and I hope to give fans a different perspective of myself in action."
Podlunsek will be racing for the final time at the 2017 season finale of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship on October 14 and 15 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway: "It will be emotional and strange getting into the race plane for the very last time in Indianapolis, but for now I will thoroughly enjoy every moment of the remaining race season together with my team."
Stay tuned for additional updates on the Master Class and Challenger Class lineup for the Red Bull Air Race 2018 season, coming soon.