Last Thursday, 52 of the world's top wingsuit flyers descended on Oakdale, California, two hours east of San Francisco, for Red Bull Aces, the first-ever side-by-side wingsuit racing event.
Created by Red Bull Air Force pilot Luke Aikins, Red Bull Aces was split into a series of elimination heats of four wingsuit flyers, who were transported by plane up to 8,000 feet. From there, they jumped and flew through four gates, staggered at thousand-foot intervals between 6,500-3,500 feet.
"People fly wingsuits by themselves all the time, but we wanted to come up with a new format," said Aikins in an interview. "So how do we do that, and how do we do that safely? What are the parameters? What is and what isn’t safe when we’re jumping out of airplanes? The biggest challenge was coming up with the safest possible way to have a true competition, one where at the end of the day I can say: This is the best wingsuit pilot."
On Thursday, the best was 31-year-old Andy Farrington, who beat out Noah Bahnson, Julian Boulle and Jhonny Florez in the finals.
“This is the way to hold a competition -- you’re racing the people right next to you," said Farrington, who was also one of five wingsuit pilots to fly over the Manhattan skyline in May. "It’s cut-and-dry -- you either made the gate or you didn’t. You either finished ahead of the other guy or you didn’t. And you’re doing it all thousands of feet in the air.”
Watch the video in the above player to get a better sense of what went down in Red Bull Aces. "The athletes are going over 100 miles an hour, racing around the gates," explains Aikins in the video, which shows the athletes diving out of the transport plane and then slicing and dicing through the sky and even passing.
"We look like friends and we are friends -- all of us," said Sebastian Alvarez. "At the same time we are competing. So at the moment that you exit, there are no friends. Everybody wants to go fast."