By Alain Gayot
Motorsports are elevated when you are a live spectator from the sound of the roaring engine to the anticipation of an active crowd of 55,000. But when you are talking about the Red Bull Air Races, everything get kicked up a notch – especially when fans can get right up to their favorite pilot for a quick autograph on a recently purchased t-shirt. Finally it certainly can’t get much better than the setting in San Diego Bay with perfect weather conditions.
Created in 2003 by the energy drink guru Dietrich Mateschitz, the air racing series is a cross between the air races of the twenties and modern aerobatics flying. Although the aircrafts are small in size, the show they put on is big – very big. And beyond the actual race plane, there are all sorts of other acts and fly-bys by the U.S. Navy, demonstrations by the Coast Guards etc. You sort of need to attend to catch the full effect.
We had a chance to attend race day from the luxurious High Flyer’s Lounge, right next to the makeshift control tower from where the amazing show is directed. We won’t forget the helicopter chasing the cigarette boat at over 100 MPH and one of the most amazing aerial displays of aerobatics anywhere by Chuck Aaron in his modified Red Bull BO-105 Helicopter.
This year, the series features a total of six races in Abu Dhabi, San Diego, Windsor, Budapest, Porto and Barcelona, all over bodies of water. Planes will hit 230 MPH and pilots are subjected to heavy G-force loads. In fact, they are limited to 10 G’s and this is what took 2006 champion American Kirby Chambliss out of the race. “My engine is slightly underpowered this year and so I dove for speed and hit the limit” says Chambliss. “Via telemetry, Race ControI got the data and they alerted me” adds the disappointed pilot who flew an impressive 45 degree rocketing exit.
On the other hand Frenchman Nicolas Ivanoff dethroned the two time winner of this race, the famous British ace Paul Bonhomme (2nd) and was able to fly a course-record time of 1:17:21 in his new Edge 540. Last year’s champion, Austrian Hannes Arch (3rd) and crowd favorite, hit a Pelican half way through his race which generated some control loss that triggered a height penalty of 2 seconds.
“I am very happy about this result, the new plane is fantastic and I look forward to the next race” claims “Nico” as I congratulated him and wished him “bonne chance a Windsor au Canada et pour le reste de la saison”. With a huge smile on his face as a response, Ivanoff raced off with the other two winners in the convertible Audi A4. This promises to be a tight and exciting season.
On July 27, 2010, Red Bull decided to cancel the 2011 series of races worldwide to allow for a “headquarters” restructure as well as the implementation of new safety measures. In that year, the only crash in the history of the Red Bull Air Race occurred in Perth, Australia. Brazilian pilot Adilson Kindlemann crashed his plane into the Swan River, but suffered no serious bodily injuries.
After a three-year hiatus, the Red Bull Air Race World Championship will finally return in 2014, the company announced on October 8, 2013. It will feature seven races, beginning in Abu Dhabi on February 28 and ending in China on November 2. New safety improvements include eliminating one of the race’s most dangerous turns, raising the height of pylons and making pylons even flimsier so as to avoid plane damage.
2016 Race Calendar:
Abu Dhabi, UAE: March 11-12
Spielberg, Austria: April 23-24
Japan: (City and date to be confirmed)
Budapest, Hungary: July 16-17
Ascot, Great Britain: Aug. 13-14
Lausitzring, Germany: Sept. 3-4
Indianapolis: Oct. 1-2
Las Vegas: Oct. 15-16
For more information on tickets or the latest race series information, visit the official Red Bull Air Race official website
Red Bull Air Race Word Championship 2014: Smoke On!
Red Bull Energy Drink official website
Learn more about Red Bull
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