Sunday, November 04, 2007

Red Bull Air Race: The Ultimate Showdown

Weather was perfect for race day on Sunday the 4th. Clear blue sky with gusty wind. An approximate 30,000 people thronged both sides of the Swan River bank for this ultimate showdown for the world championship.

If a plane can do it, so can a chopper. That's what seemed to be the message passed to the crowd when the Red Bull TV coverage chopper took to the sky and attacked the race course. However, it's rotor seemed to have clipped the pylon at the start finish line on the exit upon completion of the run. Better luck next time, dude. The pylon was deflated in short time. There goes the $10,000 a pylon for the replacement.

Customary to any flying events, this Red Bull Air Race was spiced up with great live airshows. Apart from the usual classic plane flybys and aerobatic stunts, the commercial jet flyby was something fresh and fantastic. A Qantas B767 commercial jet flew majestically over Swan River in low level. The sheer size of it passing right up your nose is just awesome.

Now on to the race itself. The much awaited hot action photos from race day are all right up here in narrative form. To start the race and timing, the pilot swoops down to the start/finish pylons. This dive is necessary to gain speed for entry into the slalom course. But the pilot has to beware that excessive speed will carry them way off the line.

The slalom course consists of 3 pylons in a single line. The pilot enters the slalom from the right and he has to pull a hard left turn due to excessive speed carried from the start/finish line.

Exiting the slalom course, the pilot flies horizontally through a blue gate before reaching the another one. Passing the second gate, the pilot performs a half Cuban Eight maneuver in which he pulls up like a rocket to near stall before turning the nose back to ground for a dive down. The pilot pulls more than 10G in this maneuver.

Diving down with lightning speed, the pilot has to level off and then roll to knife edge position just in time for entry into the quadro pylons. The wing has to be one side pointing to the sky and another one to the ground when passing this gate. Attempts to pass it horizontally will most likely result in the wings slicing the pylons into pieces. This is because the pylons are only 10 meters apart while the wing span of the plane is about 8 meters. There is little room for error here.

Exiting the quadro, the pilot makes a hard left turn to re-enter the quadro one more time before starting the second slalom course and then the half Cuban Eight. Diving down, the pilot throttles all the way to the finish line. As a way to thank the crowd, the pilot normally pulls insane stunts on exit before returning to land.

The underdogs reigned supreme in this final race. Both the championship title contender were knocked out in the semifinals. Eventually, the title had to be decided with a 3rd-4th placing. Mike Mangold won against his arch rival Paul Bonhome to become the new 2007 champion. Nicholas Ivanoff won the final race against Michael Goulian. This was the first race victory for the underdog. Below are the pictures on his way to victory. Congratulations.

All photos are the original work of the blog author. Please seek permission before using them for other purposes. Thank you.

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