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Race Director DiMatteo Commanding Respect, Enjoying New Venue

Jim DiMatteo spent 27 years as a U.S. naval aviator, logging over 5,000 flight hours and participating in 72 combat missions. Suffice it to say, he knows how to handle pressure. Today, he serves as Race Director for the Red Bull Air Race Master Class, and with his impressive resume commands instant respect from the competitors under his watch.

DiMatteo understands that there is always an eagerness that comes with establishing a new event and race course, but growing pains are to be expected. Arriving in Indianapolis, there were the normal logistical hassles that go with any inaugural venture, and Saturday’s intermittent showers interrupted afternoon qualifying sessions. Nonetheless, his enthusiasm about the opportunity to stage a race at such an historical facility was palpable. 

“We have been looking at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for about eight years or so, so it is super exciting,” DiMatteo said. “What an epic venue -- the motor racing capital of the world. It took lot of hard work by lot of people, not only on the Red Bull Air Race side, but the city of Indianapolis and also the regulators who helped facilitate this.” 

As he underscores, this isn’t a matter of simply showing up and deciding to stage a race.

“We have a whole process we go through to establish a new race course at any new venue, but the benefit of doing something at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is that we have done this at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the Texas Motor Speedway, so we are familiar with some of the obstacles we are likely to encounter,” he said.

Still, while it was useful to draw upon this previous experience, the entire Red Bull team learned that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway presented special challenges. Fortunately, those same challenges helped establish a unique race course.

“If you look at the course, we have different altitudes and different heights of the gates,” DiMatteo said. “This is because of the trees, the cables and the towers. There is just a lot of stuff here. It is real important for us to design a course where the pilots have a safe path through everything, and not just when they’re racing, but should they hit a pylon and swerve off you have to have safety zone. If you look at Las Vegas or Texas, they have nothing inside really. This place is so huge. It’s double the size of those places and you have a whole city inside this track.

“But, this also adds a cool element because the undulating up and down, because of the different height of the gates, adds a challenge for the pilots. So they’re getting used to it. They’re getting used to the up-and-down line they need to take.”

It had been a long day for everyone, but the Race Director’s broad smile suggested there was no place he would rather be.

“When you come to a place like this, what you also get is the ambience and the passion of all the people around the track and around the community who are real excited about racing in general. So when you introduce something like this, at a place like this, it is real exciting.”  

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