The Red Bull Air Race World Championship will be back in the skies in February 2014 with a seven-race World Championship staged in six countries across three different continents. The return of the world’s air racing elite was confirmed at a news conference at the Putrajaya Maritime Centre in Malaysia on Tuesday morning.
“We’re delighted to announce that the new Red Bull Air Race World Championship will be launched on February 28 in Abu Dhabi,” said Erich Wolf, CEO of Red Bull Air Race GmbH. “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. Their interest in the sport has remained unbelievably high during these past few years. We can’t wait to get back in the air in February 2014."
The series will be back with the defending world champion, the UK's Paul Bonhomme, among the 12-pilot field after it took a three-year break to improve safety and reorganize. There will be a number of technical improvements, including standard engines and propellers for all pilots, changes to the lightweight nylon pylon material to make them even easier to burst apart if they are clipped by plane wings and raising the height of the pylons that the pilots pass through from 20 to 25 metres.
Another safety feature and and a sporting highlight is the new Challengers Cup competition that will be introduced in 2014. It will give new pilots who qualify for that stepping-stone competition valuable experience racing in the tracks at certain Red Bull Air Race stops. They will also participate in several training camps during the course of the season.
“I am very pleased to see Red Bull Air Race come back as it is truly an event that gives worldwide exposure to air sports. The improvements made to the race format and race track by the Red Bull Air Race management are convincing and will no doubt add extra attractiveness to the event,” said FAI President Dr John Grubbström.
Reigning champion Bonhomme, 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 other pilots in the field include Nigel Lamb (UK), 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).
“I’ve missed the flying at Red Bull Air Race because the competitive racing is just fantastic,” said Peter Besenyei, one of the pilots who has been with Red Bull Air Race since its very start. Besenyei showed how much he missed racing during a display flight on the fringe of the news conference.
In the sport created in 2003 and watched by millions of fans during a total of 50 races before its suspension in 2011, the competitors race in high-performance airplanes between 15 and 25 metres above the ground, navigating a challenging obstacle course of Air Gate pylons at speeds of up to 370kph.
1. Abu Dhabi (UAE) February 28 & March 1
2. Putrajaya (MAL) May 17/18
3. Gdynia (POL) July 26/27
4. Ascot (UK) August 16/17
5. Dallas/Fort Worth (USA) September 6/7
6. Las Vegas (USA) October 11/12
7. China (Location TBC) November 1/2
For more information on the 2014 World Championship, visit redbullairrace.com