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After three years of quiet, the "world's fastest motorsport" is getting back up into the air as the Red Bull Air Race World Championships announces race dates for 2014, beginning as early as February. Of the seven races throughout the year, two will take place on American soil: Dallas in September and Las Vegas in October.
In past Red Bull Air Races (2003-2010), high-performance airplanes zoomed through an obstacle course of pylons while traveling at speeds up to 230 mph only 50-80 feet above water or undeveloped land. Now, after the three years of break to improve safety and organization, the air race will occur at a few speedways, meaning plenty of existing crowd stands and infrastructure for the thousands of spectators to properly view all the heart-pounding maneuvers of the twelve competing pilots (yes, including Kirby Chambliss).
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It's now being joked that Red Bull has a better space program than most countries, after Felix Baumgartner's successful "Red Bull Stratos" sky dive from 128,000 feet yesterday. It's also being said that all the media and social media attention directed at the event, which drew some 5 million live viewers on YouTube, is worth $5 billion. That's a huge profit on the $25 million and 5 years they put into making the mission a reality.
Alas, it's not just space jumps the energy drink has a hand in; Red Bull slaps their logo on everything from soapbox derbies to jumprope competitions, but since Red Bull "gives you wings," they do sponsor their fair share of aviation events. Let's look at the big three:
Red Bull Flugtag
Here's what happens. You get some friends or coworkers together and register as a team. Your team builds some sort of flying contraption. It gets launched off a ramp above water. It crashes into said water, but hopefully scores a few feet of precious flight first. Thousands cheer from the riverside/lakeside/seaside for you to keep on flying (but also anticipating an awesome crash). The currect flight record is 229 feet and was set in Mainz, Germany.
Remember when you were, like, six and your grandpa took you to that airshow? Kinda boring, right? Well the Red Bull Air Race World Series should change your mind about the whole going-to-see-planes thing.
The Air Race is what it sounds like: 12 pilots gun it around a course, skimming just 50 feet above land and water while doing 250 mph. They do their best to avoid those air-filled pylons, but obviously they knock into 'em occasionally.
The circuit flies into San Diego on May 3 for qualifying rounds and continues on race day, May 4. These nutsos will zip around the Big Bay between Embarcadero Park and Coronado Island. You'll need tickets, which start at $15; a two-day pass is a good deal at $30.