Red Bull Air Race recently took to Ascot for the fifth leg of its world series, so we went along to check out what the event was all about.
It turns out there were some crazy things going on – from the blistering planes to some insane trials biking and the fact that were a weird amount of people wearing top hats. Strange, right? Right.
Anyway, here are the 10 craziest things we learnt while at Ascot last weekend…
1) Air Race Pilots Are Absolutely Badass
It came as a bit of a surprise to learn that a whole lot of the pilots at the event were born in the 50s or 60s. Some aren’t quite as old as others, but the older guys definitely seem to kill it.
This makes sense when you think about it. After all, you can hardly start piloting a plane at the same time you can start riding a bike. Experience is key.
Positive G-force forces blood to flow away from a pilot’s brain… The custom-made ‘G-Race Suit’ make sure this doesn’t happen.
What also came as a surprise to us was the fact that the competitors get hit with a monster amount of G-Force while racing – with up to 10 Gs being piled on to the pilot.
This means they’re carrying up to 10 times their own bodyweight, and they have to wear all sorts of special gear to even stay conscious. Humans weren’t made for that shit!
2) Brits Are Shit Shot At Flying Planes Fast!
It turns out that the Great British elite are absolutely shit hot at racing airplanes. No, really! We’re freakin’ awesome!
Just have a look at the leaderboard from Ascot, where Paul Bonhomme took first place and British birthday boy Nigel Lamb followed him into second. How’s that for a podium line up?!
Cambridge-based Bonhomme also happens to be the most successful pilot in the history of the Red Bull Air Race. So, you know… Don’t fuck with us in the air.
3) At Red Bull Air Race You Can Still Win After You Lose
As we’ve just mentioned, Paul Bonhomme ended up taking the top spot at Ascot, but he actually only qualified from one of the earlier stages as a fastest loser – as did fellow Brit Nigel Lamb after losing out in their respective head to head ties.
This is the first time ever that a ‘lucky loser’ has gone on to win the final, and it means that even though he lost, he still won overall, which is awesome!
4) The ‘G-Race Suit’ Makes Blood Turn Around
First things first, the ‘G-Race Suit’ is the thing that pilots wear to protect them when the sledge hammer hit of 10 Gs kicks in.
Apparently, positive G-force causes blood to flow from a pilot’s brain towards his feet, but in the G-Suit, fluid-filled tubes called Fluid Muscles expand, squeezing the pilot and preventing the downward flow of blood when under high G.
That’s got to be comfortable.
5) Ed Leigh Also Commentates On Air Racing!
We all know Ed Leigh from his commentating at Sochi 2014. Jenny Jones took home the bronze and Ed lost his shit, dividing the public into those who loved his enthusiasm and those who chose to be general dicks about the whole thing.
Anyway, it turns out Ed also commentates on Air Races! He was in the box at Ascot talking the crowd through the day, and, as you’d expect, getting way over excited when the Brits started shredding – which they did very successfully!
6) Sometimes Even Milliseconds Aren’t Enough
All of the pilots involved in the Red Bull Air Race series are killer at flying a plane. This means that the races get pretty damn close sometimes, even though so much can go wrong when you’re knocking about at 300/400kph.
There has never been an actual tie in an Air Race, but we came pretty damn close at Ascot, with the commentators thinking one race was drawn upon finish before going into the teeny-tiny hundreds of thousands of a second, or something similar that was equally as ridiculous as that!
7) Extra Plane Weight Makes A Ridiculous Amount Of Difference
Because of the increase in weight that kicks in under Gs, 20kg of extra weight in a plane would add up to around 200kg extra at 10G.
This means that all weight on the plane must be limited as much as possible. The average weight difference between the heaviest and lightest planes is indeed 20kg, so this means the heavier one would be hauling 200kg more when it goes to pull through corners!
8) Red Bull Air Race Is The Fastest Motorsport Series Ever Created
This one may not come as the biggest surprise when you think about it for a few seconds, but it’s definitely a cool fact. The average speed is approximately 370kph, while top speeds range from 425.97kph to 444kph.
Wouldn’t fancy getting hit by one of the planes.
9) Ascot Isn’t Used To Hosting Extreme Sport Events
The Air Race was held at Ascot Racecourse, known for it’s prestige and upmarket nature. This meant the staff were ridiculously well dressed – we’re talking top hats, waistcoats, tailcoats and all sorts of other shit. No holds barred.
While all this was going on, the general public seemed to be getting really quite confused about the dress code – should they dress for the badass occasion or the fancy setting?
In the end, most people stuck rigidly to one extreme, so there was a hilarious contrast of people wearing five panel caps and Vans to those wearing suits and draping tweed jackets over their shoulders. Comedy gold.
10) The Side Shows At Red Bull Air Race Is Insane!Picture: Matthias Carter
We knew well in advance that there would be wing walkers, above, an army commander doing tricks with a Chinook (normally used for transporting heavy artillery), and a fly by from the Red Arrows at Ascot. That stuff was sick.
What we didn’t know until closer to the event is that Danny MacAskill’s Drop and Roll show would also be there, as would a BMX show from Bas Keep and Kris Kyle, flatland BMX skills from Viki Gomez and Matthias Dandois, and a mad trials display from Dougie Lampkin.
It all joined up to make a massive show which with some properly insane riding. Who needs the planes?