10 Facts You Should Know About Red Bull Air Race

Impress your friends with your knowledge of the world's fastest motorsport with these stats.
Red Bull Air Race Malaysia 2014 © Predrag Vuckovic/Red Bull Content Pool
By Eric Wright

There's no feeling that beats the satisfaction of knowing that you are the smartest guy in the room. While we cannot guarantee you that level of knowledge, we can help you create that illusion when you and your friends are watching Red Bull Air Race in Fort Worth or Las Vegas. Just memorize the following key facts, and you will have everyone within earshot swooning over how massive your brain must be.

1. There are two classes of pilot at Red Bull Air Race: Master Class and Challenger Class.

The pilots of the Master Class are the varsity players. No rookies in there; they've been around the block. Challenger Class pilots may be the freshmen, but they're incredible pilots, nonetheless.

2. To even reach the Challenger Class, pilots must be active aerobatic air display pilots, and must show they have the right stuff at the Red Bull Air Race Qualification Camp.

The Red Bull Air Race committee only wants the best of the best, because air racing is no walk in the park.

Peter Besenyei flies his Corvus through an Air Gate
Peter Besenyei's Corvus rips through the racetrack © Samo Vidic/Red Bull Content Pool

3. The fastest Air Race plane is the Corvus Racer 540, which reaches up to 276 mph. The lightest plane is the MXS-R, which weighs in at about 1,120 lbs.

Several racers also compete in the Edge 540, which is actually a happy medium between the two -- lighter than the Corvus, and faster than the MXS-R.

4. Air Race planes can pull into a vertical orientation faster than even modern fighter jets, and can withstand up to 10Gs of force.

Racing planes are built for maneuverability, and though they are lighter than even a modern car, they are incredibly durable.

5. For 2014, all the engines and propellers on the planes must match standardized specifications, similar to rules in NASCAR.

In previous years, teams were allowed to modify their engines and props, but in the interest of safety and competition, all engines and propellers are regulated for 2014.

6. Each “track” consists of 25-meter pylons that pilots must maneuver between, akin to gates in a downhill ski race.

2014 is the first year that the pylons will be 25 meters tall, versus 20 in previous years. The taller pylons mean the pilots are able to fly further above the ground, creating a safer race environment.

7. Each pilot flies with spare air and an oxygen mask, as well as a parachute. They have also each undergone underwater survival training for racing that takes place over water.

Safety is of the utmost importance at Red Bull Air Race. Emergency teams and doctors are also always on location whenever a plane takes to the course.

8. The racing works like so:

12 pilots qualify the day before racing takes place, with two sessions to get the fastest time on course. The Top 12 are placed into six heats, with each winner and the two fastest non-winners moving on to the Super 8. Each Super 8 pilot is competing against one another. The four fastest will move to the Final 4, where they compete for positions first to fourth.

Paul Bonhomme at Red Bull Air Race Croatia 2014 © Joerg Mitter/Red Bull Content Pool

9. Each pilot reaching the Super 8 scores points in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship. First place receives twelve points, eighth receives one. Pilots finishing ninth-12th receive no points.

At the end of the eight-race series, the Red Bull Air Race World Champion is crowned.

10. Paul Bonhomme from Great Britain has won the last two Red Bull Air Race world titles, and currently sits just two points shy of the lead behind Hannes Arch (the 2008 Air Race champ) in the 2014 World Championship standings.

So be sure to follow the action (in person, if possible!) at Red Bull Air Race in Fort Worth on September 6-7, and in Las Vegas on October 11-12. 

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