The Red Bull Air Race World Championship will be back in the skies beginning in February 2014 with a seven-race World Championship staged in six countries on three continents. Of the seven races, two will take place in the U.S. – Dallas/Fort Worth at Texas Motor Speedway on Sept. 6-7 and Las Vegas at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 11-12.
The world’s fastest motorsport will be back with three former World Champions in the 12-pilot field after taking a three-year break to improve safety and reorganize. Created in 2003, Red Bull Air Race has been watched by millions of fans at 50 races, with the competitors racing in high-performance airplanes between 50 and 80 feet above the ground and navigating a challenging obstacle course of Air Gate pylons at speeds of up to 230 mph. Fans will be able to watch the entire seven-race 2014 Red Bull Air Race World Championship on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2.
“We’re delighted to announce that the new Red Bull Air Race World Championship will be launched on Feb. 28 in Abu Dhabi (UAE),” said Erich Wolf, CEO Red Bull Air Race GmbH, at a news conference at in Malaysia on Tuesday morning. “The Red Bull Air Race is one of the most exciting sports the world has ever seen. We’ve all worked very hard over the last three years fine-tuning some of the safety aspects and bringing the sport to a new level. We never took our eye off the target and neither have these fantastic pilots or the great fans around the world. We can’t wait to get back up in the air in February 2014.”
For 2014, there will be a number of technical improvements to increase safety, including standard engines and propellers for all pilots, changes to the lightweight nylon pylon material (making it easier for them to burst apart if they are clipped by plane wings) and raising the height of the pylons that the pilots pass through from 65 feet to 80 feet. The high-G 270-degree “Quatro” turn through a set of four pylons used in previous years has been eliminated due to the exceedingly high g-force it exerts on the planes and pilots. The modus and rules have also been tightened to help prevent any pilots from exceeding the set limits.
Another safety feature and highlight is the new Challengers Cup competition that will be introduced in 2014. This stepping-stone competition will give new pilots valuable experience racing under less pressure on the day before the Red Bull Air Race. There will also be several training camps for the new pilots during the season for them to hone their skills.
Red Bull Air Race was started in 2003, with the first U.S. race taking place in Reno in 2004. Since then, the series has held nine races in the U.S., with stops in San Francisco, San Diego, Monument Valley, Detroit and New York. For the first time in the U.S., the series will feature both stops taking place in speedways, a departure from the past when events were held above water or undeveloped land. The new locations – Texas Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway – are a perfect fit for a motorsport featuring high performance machines and high adrenaline racing.
“I’m excited that there will be two races in the U.S., and I’m a native Texan – from Corpus Christi – so it’s going to be cool racing in my home state, for sure,” said Red Bull Air Race pilot Kirby Chambliss. “We’ll be racing in the motor speedways in the two stops in the United States – Texas and Las Vegas. We did that previously in Germany, and it’s a really cool perspective from a spectator standpoint, because you’re actually looking down on the airplanes as they race through the gates.”
Reigning champion Paul Bonhomme of Britain, who won the last two world championships in 2009 and 2010, will be looking for an unprecedented third straight title in 2014. But he will be up against 2008 champion Hannes Arch of Austria and American Kirby Chambliss, who won the world title in 2004 and 2006. The rest of the pilots in the field include: Nigel Lamb (GBR), Matt Hall (AUS), Peter Besenyei (HUN), Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA), Michael Goulian (USA), Matthias Dolderer (GER), Yoshi Muroya (JPN), Pete McLeod (CAN) and Martin Sonka (CZE).
“We like doing things no one expects. I think the thing that will be so appealing to motorsports fans and gearheads is that this is a real competition,” said Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage. “Red Bull Air Race is truly a head-to-head, nose-to-nose competition on the clock, where these pilots are running through the Air Gates to see who can turn in the best time.”
“We tend to draw people who love high-performance vehicles, and certainly these airplanes are high-performance vehicles,” said Chris Powell, president and general manager at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “Yes, it’s a bit of a new wrinkle for us at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to be staging air racing, but fans who love performance are very much going to love watching these planes race.”