Of the changes for 2015 the change in race format is the biggest, brought on by the increase in pilots. Because there are fourteen pilots in 2015 the first knockout round will now feature seven heats instead of six, with the seven winners plus the fastest loser then moving on to the round of eight, with the four winners then moving into the final four to decide the winner.
Another change to the race day comes from the Challenger Class, with their final, previously held on the Saturday, now moving to the Sunday before the Round of 14.
“This new format will be a big challenge for the pilots to fly more precisely and better than ever before and we’re confident it will make the Red Bull Air Race more exciting and competitive,” said Jim DiMatteo, Race Director of the Red Bull Air Race. “The pilots know that just one little mistake in the Round of 14 or Round of 8 can cost them dearly.”
Of the pilots for 2015 all of last year’s pilots return to action, with two new comers, François Le Vot and Juan Velarde, looking to make good impressions after moving up from the Challenger Class, but reigning champion Nigel Lamb amongst others will be looking to stop them doing so.
“It’s going to be a very interesting season, because if you look at last year, nine out of the 12 pilots had a podium finish,” said Lamb. “Out of the three that didn’t, two were former World Champions and one was a race winner! Everyone knows how to get to the top and what’s required. All the rules are designed to keep a level playing field so I don’t see any reason why anyone can’t get onto the podium.
“Even the new guys have a chance to win. I don’t know them too well, but they’re definitely ones to watch. François has so much experience, to win the World Aerobatic Championship, that’s mega! It’s a huge achievement, so he’s obviously incredibly good. And everyone says Juan flies amazingly well. Whether they’ve worked out the winning formula or not is another matter.”
The venues for 2015 are once again set to have astonishing backdrops, with Abu Dhabi, Ascot, the Red Bull Ring, Fort Worth and Las Vegas all returning, whilst Chiba in Japan and Sochi in Russia both make their debuts on the World Aerobatic stage. Hungary also returns to the calendar after a year’s absence.
The 2015 season starts next weekend, February 13/14 in Abu Dhabi, with live coverage for both qualifying and race day available live on the Red Bull Air Race website.