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By Sea or By Land | Red Bull Air Race Pilots Must Soar on Variety of Courses

The Red Bull Air Race World Championship event Oct. 6-7 is part of a vital three-race stretch to close the 2018 season with events based over land, a marked contrast from the first five races of the year, which took place over water.

Land races bring a different element to the Red Bull Air Race, and a lot of pilots prefer them. Pilots say that over land, there are more reference points and a stronger sensation of speed. The 82-foot Air Pylons also can drift a bit while moored in water compared to the solid footing of land, making navigation even trickier in windy conditions.

Just before he retired in 2015, Great Britain’s Paul Bonhomme clinched his record third World Championship by closing the season with two wins and two second-place finishes on land-based tracks. In the following two seasons, there was an obvious pattern showing that certain pilots are looking successful over land and should perform well in Indianapolis.

Since the start of the 2016 season there have been seven races over land (four in ’16, two in ‘17 and one this year), and they have been won by just four pilots: Matthias Dolderer of Germany, Matt Hall of Australia, Yoshihide Muroya of Japan and Martin Sonka of the Czech Republic.

Dolderer won twice over air in 2016. The first was his maiden race win on a snowy Sunday at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria, and the second on a fall day at IMS, where he clinched the World Championship crown.

Including his two wins, Dolderer has been on the podium five times out of those seven land-based races.

Hall’s two land-based victories also came in 2016, where he won in Ascot, United Kingdom, and Lausitz, Germany. His first-ever race win was also over land at Spielberg in 2015. Even last year, when he was dialing in a brand-new race plane, toward the end of the season showed his love for the land by taking second at Lausitzring, making it three podiums in the six races for the Australian.

“I’m more comfortable over land, to tell you the truth,” Hall said. “I can take more in and take perspectives and see what’s going on. I’m really looking forward to getting back in the track again.”

Current World Champion Muroya won both the 2017 races over land (and over speedways), at Lausitzring and Indianapolis. It was his strong performances in these tracks that saw him steal the title from Sonka, who was 10 points clear at the top of the standings after the sixth race on the calendar in Porto, before the land races.

“It should be good here; it doesn’t matter to me if we race over land or water,” Muroya said. “But it should be OK for me. I like the standing start, it was good for me in Indy last year. The plane is fast, so it could be good for us, and by the time we get to the Vertical Turning Maneuver we should be close to 200 knots.”

Sonka continued the incredible roll that has vaulted him to the top of the Master Class standings by winning over land Sept. 15-16 at Wiener Neustadt, a series record-tying third consecutive victory this season.

While the last three races are over land, there’s variety even within those courses. Round 6, on Sept. 15-16 at Wiener Neustadt, Austria, took place over a huge, open airfield. The IMS course takes place over the oval infield, with the Pagoda, Tower Terrace suites and Brickyard Crossing Golf Course as important visual markers. The final round of the 2018 season takes place Nov. 17-18 over Texas Motor Speedway.

Visit IMS.com to buy tickets or for more information about the Red Bull Air Race.

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