After a three-year hiatus during which organizers dealt with safety concerns, the Red Bull Air Race World Championship returns this weekend with the official start of the 2014 season in Abu Dhabi.
The inaugural race of the new season pits 12 Red Bull race pilots against each other as they navigate a low-level course consisting of several air-filled pylons at speeds of up to 200 knots.
Established in 2003, the race series has attracted some of the top aerobatic and race pilots in the world, including Kirby Chambliss, Paul Bonhomme, Michael Goulian and others. Bonhomme won the championship in 2009 and 2010 before Red Bull announced the races would be canceled for safety improvements and a top-to-bottom reorganization.
For 2014, changes include adopting standard engines and propellers for all pilots, making changes to the nylon pylon material (making it easier for them to burst apart if they are clipped by race planes) and raising the height of the pylons from 65 feet to 80 feet. The high-G 270-degree "Quatro" turn through a set of four pylons from previous years has also been eliminated due to the high g-force it exerts on the airplanes and pilots, organizers said.
After this weekend's race, the series moves onto Malaysia, Croatia, Poland, England, the United States and China. There will be two races in the United States, at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth September 6-7 and in Las Vegas October 11-12.
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