Ever since the Prix de Lagatinerie in 1909, with just four pilots competing and only one succeeding to cover slightly more than half of the ten laps, mankind has been into air racing. Now organisers have announced a new international air racing event, one which will bring the world’s fastest pilots together. Air Race 1 will start with a showcase race in Lleida-Alguaire Airport in Catalunya (Spain) on June the 1st and a full annual World Series stretching over different countries is planned for 2015.
Based upon the long-running Formula 1 aircraft class, eight aircraft will be racing simultaneously on a circuit in front of the crowds. And after 10 laps of 5km each, the first one to cross the finish line wins.
"We can’t release any names yet, but about half of the pilots who have registered are European, mostly from the UK and France, the others are from the US. Some of these guys are very famous in the world of air racing.” That world, according to Zaltman, is an entirely different field from the Red Bull Air Race. “Naturally, both types of pilots share the same dedication, fine tuned precision and excellent coordination. However, the events are very distinct. F1 isn’t about aerobatics, it’s about pure racing, and to do that with seven other aircraft in the same space takes a completely different approach to flying. Additional skills are required. These guys only train to be professional race pilots.”
Racing isn't just the sole purpose of the pilots, but also of the planes. The sleek aircraft used for formula 1, which are often based on the classic Cassutt Special, have a minimum wing area of 66 sqf, an empty weight of 500 lbs and a 100hp engine, allowing them to reach speeds of 450 km/h. Having up to eight aircraft all racing together on the same track is an extremely risky plan, but the organisers are confident and have ensured the event will be as safe as possible. "In all motorsports there is an element of risk, and to ignore this, would be dangerous in itself," says Zaltman. "However, safety is our top priority. We pick the best pilots and train them well. Racing is what they do, they know what's at stake. Apart from good pilots and planes, the rules are quite stringent as well," he concludes.
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