After months of planning and preparation, the 2014 Red Bull Air Race World Championship season kicks off in Abu Dhabi, for a seventh time, with the 12 racing pilots in top condition and ready to fly in the eagerly awaited return of the planet's fastest motorsport series next week.
The Red Bull Air Race World Championship will be back in the skies on February 28 and March 1 with a triumphant return to Abu Dhabi for the seventh season opener over the sparkling waters of the Arabian Gulf. Reigning champion Paul Bonhomme of Britain, who won the last race in Abu Dhabi in 2010, will be looking to get his title defense off to a flying start in the UAE's capital city against 11 of the world's most talented pilots in the high-speed, low-altitude racing action in front of tens of thousands of spectators expected to watch from the waterfront.
The Red Bull Air Race, returning after a three-year break, will be larger than ever in 2014 with eight stops in seven countries on three continents, including Croatia, Malaysia, Britain, Poland, the United States and China.
"We're all extremely excited to relaunch the Red Bull Air Race and everyone from the pilots and their technicians to the entire organization have been working very hard for many months to ensure that we are all in top shape to conduct a safe, exciting and competitive race," said Red Bull Air Race Race Director Jim DiMatteo. "Abu Dhabi is a perfect location to kick off the season with its typically good weather at this time of the year and its majestic backdrop."
Bonhomme, 2008 champion Hannes Arch of Austria, America's Kirby Chambliss, who won the 2006 world championship, and the other nine ace pilots from a total of 10 countries have been training for the racing for the last year and will be battling it out for valuable championship points in the scorching desert heat in the first of eight Red Bull Air Race World Championship rounds scheduled for 2014.
"The obvious goal is to win everything but right now no one knows how anyone will do," Bonhomme said, noting the pilots will first need to see how the rule changes and standardized engines will affect performance. "I think we'll do okay but we'll have to see in Abu Dhabi," he added. Bonhomme said it was impossible to make any forecast about his title defense yet. "It's a new season and as far as I'm concerned we're all starting afresh."
Abu Dhabi, the fast-growing cosmopolitan city on the Arabian Gulf, is familiar territory for the 12 experienced Red Bull Air Race pilots. It hosted the season opener between 2005 and 2010. Bonhomme won the race here in 2008 and 2010 while Hungary's Peter Besenyei took first in 2005 and 2007. Chambliss won in Abu Dhabi in 2006 and Arch took first place honors in 2009.
In the Red Bull Air Race pilots race against the clock as they try to navigate their racing planes as fast as possible through a challenging low-altitude slalom course filled with Air Gate obstacles. The pilots reach speeds of up to 370 kilometers per hour and endure forces of up to 10Gs in the tight turns on courses.
The capricious winds of Abu Dhabi can make the race track - which stretches out for some eight kilometers over the turquoise waters in front of the city's Corniche Road – especially challenging. Winds can be blowing steadily in one direction before abruptly changing and blowing in the opposition direction just moments later. Temperatures in the arid region can rise well above 30 degrees C in late February.
The 2014 season promises to be more competitive than ever before because all 12 pilots will be flying with standardized engines and propellers for the first time to level the playing field and putting a premium on flying skills and less on engine power. The other pilots in the field include Nigel Lamb (GBR), Matt Hall (AUS), Nicolas Ivanoff (FRA), Michael Goulian (USA), Matthias Dolderer (GER), Yoshi Muroya (JPN), Pete McLeod (CAN) and Martin Sonka (CZE). www.redbullairrace.com
Race Calendar: February 28/March 1 Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates), April 12/13 Rovinj (Croatia), May 17/18 Putrajaya (Malaysia), July 26/27 Gdynia (Poland), August 16/17 Ascot (United Kingdom), September 6/7 Fort Worth (United States), October 11/12 Las Vegas (United States), November 1/2 China (People's Republic of China).