Most Australian Formula One fans probably share my distaste for the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team. It doesn’t seem to be run in an exactly sporting manner, and the treatment given to Webber in his final seasons in the sport leaves a lot to be desired. But… put all that aside for one moment. There’s a whole lot more to Red Bull than Formula One, and it is all on free display in the excellent Hangar-7 complex at Austria’s Salzburg Airport.
The personal project of energy drink tzar and aviation/motorsport enthusiast Dietrich Mateschitz, the Austrian genius who made it big by marketing a little known Thai energy drink to the world, Hangar-7 houses his collection of aircraft (called The Flying Bulls) and an assortment of Red Bull sponsored racing cars and bikes.
But just leaving it at that would be selling it short, as Hangar-7 is much more. In addition to the cars and the planes and the bikes it is full of art and sculpture, and functions also as an entertainment space, concert hall and gallery.
The Red Bull X2010 Prototype even sat quietly in a corner. This car was designed by Adrian Newey in collaboration with the producers of Playstation game Gran Turismo 5 and answers a question we’ve all asked ourselves at some point – what would a Formula One car look like if there were no rules? Well, it would look a little like this.
… and Cyril Despres’ 2013 Dakar rally winning KTM. Hangar-7 really did highlight just how big Red Bull’s involvement with motorsport really is, although unfortunately there were none of their sponsored WRC cars on display.
For the aviation enthusiasts amongst you, of which I know there are a few, the Flying Bulls collection consists of the DC-6B, BO105 CB, EC135, Bell Cobra TAH-1F, North American B25J Mitchell, Lockheed P38-L, Bell 47 G-3B-1, Pilatus Porter PC6, Alpha Jet, PT-17 Stearman, Cessna CE208 Amphibian Caravan, Chance Vought F4U-4 Corsair and Fairchild PT-19. Unfortunately I don’t know anywhere near enough about aircraft to understand what most of those model numbers mean, but I assume it’s a pretty impressive collection.
Most of that collection is housed off-limits across the tarmac in an identically sized and designed hangar, providing a nice symmetry. I gather over there though that the restaurants and lounges and exhibition spaces are swapped for proper workshops and is staffed with engineers to keep these beauties in the air.
The star attraction during Any Given Reason’s visit was a special exhibition dedicated to Felix Baumgartner. First up is the suit he wore when he ‘flew’ across the English channel in 2003. Baumgartner leaped out of a plane above Dover, England, at 30,000 feet and landed 35km away near Calais, France, about 14 minutes later.
But the most special part was the equipment used by Baumgartner is his 14 October 2012 world record breaking parachute jump. Baumgartner jumped from this very capsule from a height of 127,852 feet, breaking the world records for highest parachute jump, highest manned balloon flight (at the same height) and fastest speed of free fall (843.6mph/1,357.64km/h). He also became the first human to break the sound barrier outside of a vehicle.
There’s definitely a parallel to be drawn between the energy drink and cigarette industries. Both use exceptional marketing strategies to sell products of questionable health side effects to impressionable audiences with astronomical profit margins, and both pump obscene amounts of money into the sponsorship of sporting events, teams and endeavors.
Will energy drinks such as Red Bull one day be proven as a cause of cancer and a whole range of medical issues we haven’t even thought of yet? Probably. And in 50 years time, will energy drink sponsorship also be banned from our sport? Who knows.
But for the time being just be aware that next time you go and pay $5 for a 250ml can of energy drink, you’re really just making a donation to fund a whole lot of awesome things like world record breaking sub atmospheric space flight, art galleries, incredible public spaces, huge flying aeroplane collections and Formula One, WRC, Sports Car, MotoGP, Nascar, Dakar, Drifting and Formula SAE teams. Given how rare big dollar sponsorship is these days and how little public funding is available to push the boundaries in areas like aviation and space flight, it all seems pretty reasonable to me.