30 July 2007
Red Bull Air Race
Rob Fisher

Perhaps this is only loosely about transport, but, well, the pilots of the Red Bull Air Race planes were certainly transported very quickly around a course over the Thames this weekend. I went along to see what it was all about.

The 13 pilots take part in a series of time trials around a course marked out by inflatable conical gates. Various high G aerobatic maneuvers are involved, at high speeds and very low altitudes. Watching the aeroplanes take turns to fly the same course would quickly become repetitive were it not for the sheer excitement of the spectacle and the slick presentation. Competition is close, it is obvious when a pilot makes a mistake, and thanks to the excellent PA and commentary it is easy to follow the progress of the competition.

Although air racing is almost as old as aviation, the sport in its high profile, international, Red Bull guise is young. An interesting new development is that one of the pilots flies an Extra 300SR specially modified for air racing by the manufacturer. If manufacturers start to compete as they do in Formula 1, this will add a new dimension to the sport. I hope that it grows and television coverage becomes more prominent.

Quite how Red Bull manages to sponsor so many expensive looking sporting events is an interesting question. It is a privately owned company, so I have a romantic vision of a wealthy owner with a passion for extreme sports. I wonder if this is anywhere near the truth.

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