Where else can you see single engine propeller planes zipping along the length of a river with relative pin point accuracy? Red Bull Air Race World series promise that and much more. The London leg was held on the first weekend of August this year. This F1 equivalent of air racing saw the world's best pitted against each other for points.
Unlike F1, the format for Red Bull Air Race is more straightforward and its pace more pulsating. There's no pit stops, no wrangling for pole position and a crash in this event is most certainly fatal. Competitors have to fly through a circuit marked by inflatable gates and the fastest time recorded wins. Time penalties are awarded for hitting thus deflating the air gates and pilots are disqualified for dangerous flying.
Mike Mangold of US was crowned the champion in 2007 but didn't seem to do too well in the current season. Needless to say, the crowd went ballistic when UK competitor Paul Bonhomme's plane flew past the grandstand. Bonhomme disappointingly didn't complete the circuit when he was penalized for deflating an air gate.
The 3hrs event would probably end after an hour or so if not for the side shows, which in my opinion, makes the ticket price more worthwhile. For one, I've never seen a helicopter flying vertically before much less performing somersaults and righting itself in a matter of seconds. Navy rescue helicopters, which were always the crowd pleaser, also demonstrated search and rescue tactics.
The finals proved to be quite popular with almost 80% of the tickets sold two weeks before the event itself. At £45 per ticket, they don't come cheap either. I managed to get a decent view over at the south bank and caught quite a bit of the action. Would I attend it in 2009? Probably not. After awhile, the flights seemed somewhat repetitive. But then again, I'm not exactly a fan of F1 either.
Redbull - sponsor of Red Bull Air Race series
The Royal Ascot - betting at Horse race