It’s a perfect fall day in an undisclosed part of Northern California, and 40 of the world’s best wingsuit pilots are packing their parachutes and suiting up for the very first training runs of Red Bull Aces 2015. The inaugural event in 2014 proved the concept of four-at-a-time slalom racing in the sky, and now that the athletes know what to expect, they've been customizing their training and working with wingsuit manufacturers to optimize all that they can specifically for this race.
We caught up with defending champion Andy Farrington to see how things are going.
RedBull.com: Hi Andy, welcome back! How does it feel to be kicking off the second season of Red Bull Aces?
Andy Farrington: It’s great. Those of us who competed last year learned so much, plus we’ve got new pilots in the lineup as well. Everybody’s ready to go.
... from last year to this year the suits are quite a bit faster.
Since Red Bull Aces is the first wingsuit four-cross format, and the first with air gates, there really must have been a lot to learn. Do you feel more prepared for this year's event?
Definitely. We’ve had a lot of time to train and practice, and to test new wingsuits. Hopefully I’ve got one of the fastest wingsuits out there.
Without giving away any competitive secrets, what makes this year’s wingsuits faster? Is it just a matter of a thinner profile for less drag?
It’s not quite that simple. Since there are going to be steep sections and flat sections and so on, you have to find a little bit of a happy medium. But I can tell you that from last year to this year the suits are quite a bit faster. So hopefully we picked the right one — only time can tell.
Can you really train for this prior to the actual event, since you don't have access to air gates until the competition happens?
Yeah, the really cool thing about this event is that you can practice in your own ways. You can imagine what a course will be like and practice flying steep and with different turns and angles. Until you’re one of those four people on the skids ready to jump though, you really don’t know how the course is going to be. And that’s great — that really [shows] who the top pilot is — the one who can adapt to different situations and handle them for the best result.
Stay tuned for more from Red Bull Aces 2015!