Red Bull Air Races Take Place in the Home Of Naval Aviation

The Red Bull Air Race.
Manuel de Sousa / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

The Red Bull Air Race World Series features the world’s best pilots in a motorsports competition based on speed, precision, and skill.

Using the fastest, most agile and lightweight racing planes, pilots navigate a low-level aerial race track made up of air-filled pylons, reaching speeds of 400 kilometers per hour while withstanding forces of up to 10 Gs.

Where Do the Races Take Place?

Touching down in six cities worldwide, the 2009 event was a hit and included San Diego. Each Red Bull Air Race is unique. From the heart of the city to the open countryside, over land or water, a Red Bull Air Race can take place almost anywhere. Spectacular backdrops and jaw-dropping action guarantee that spectators experience one of the most innovative and exciting new sports competitions around today.

San Diego was the second stop of the 6-race 2009 season. The objective is to navigate an aerial race track featuring air-filled pylons in the fastest possible time incurring as few penalties as possible.

Pilots can win points at each race and the one with the most points at the end of the World Series becomes the Red Bull Air Race World Champion.

What Is the Race Format?

The new format features a Qualifying Day with all pilots racing to be one of the ten fastest to take them directly through to the Top 12 session on Race Day. For the first time ever, Qualifying will also be a race for one World Championship point which will be awarded to the pilot with the best time in Qualifying. A Wild Card session opens Race Day with the five slowest from Qualifying getting a second chance.

What's with the Giant Pylons?

The inflatable pylons, known as ‘Air Gates’, define the Red Bull Air Race track. They are a creative and complex feat in engineering. The Air Gates used today have developed significantly since the first prototype was designed in 2002. Austrian designer, Martin Jehart and the team at Bellutti, an Innsbruck-based engineering firm specializing in the manufacturing of technical materials and tarpaulin, created the pylons. They eventually came up with the original cylindrical-shaped pylons.

Where Did the Red Bull Air Races Take Place in San Diego?

The Red Bull Air Race took place over the bay between the Embarcadero Marina parks and Coronado on Saturday, May 9 and Sunday, May 10. 

The track was packed with many twists, high-speed sharp turns and Air Gates that are more difficult to negotiate. Pilot judgment is critical in order to fly a perfect race line. If they misjudged it or cut corners too much they risked being unable to complete the turn into the next Air Gate, which could result in a slower time, penalty seconds or in the worst case disqualification. The race track was located in the Big Bay between Coronado Island and the spectacular downtown skyline of San Diego.

Over 50,000 people turned out to watch the race in San Diego. Spectators were able to enjoy unprecedented views of the action from the Embarcadero Marine Park peninsulas.