Texas Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway are going to try something a bit different next season. The two 1.5-mile ovals will play host to events in the 2014 comeback season for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship, with the Texas round slated for Sept. 6-7, 2014 and the Vegas round for Oct. 11-12, 2014.
The series had an initial eight-season run from 2003 to 2010 before going on hiatus in 2011 to reorganize and also implement improved safety measures. Next year, the series will feature seven events altogether; the five non-American rounds will be staged in locales such as the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Poland, Great Britain, and China.
In their respective statements, Texas Motor Speedway president/GM Eddie Gossage and Las Vegas Motor Speedway president/GM Chris Powell felt that the series would be appealing to their tracks’ fan bases.
“We like doing things no one expects,” Gossage said. “I think the thing that will be so appealing to motorsports fans and gearheads is that this is a real competition. Red Bull Air Race is truly a head-to-head, nose-to-nose competition on the clock, where these pilots are running through the Air Gates to see who can turn in the best time.”
“We tend to draw people who love high-performance vehicles, and certainly these airplanes are high-performance vehicles,” Powell said. “Yes, it’s a bit of a new wrinkle for us at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to be staging air racing, but fans who love performance are very much going to love watching these planes race.”
Red Bull Air Race events have pilots darting through obstacle courses made up of “Air Gate” pylons at speeds that rival those of their earth-bound brethren from NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One.
For the 2014 campaign, a number of technical tweaks have been made for the aforementioned improvement of safety: Standard engines and propellers for all pilots, changes to the pylons’ material that make them easier to burst if they’re clipped by plane wings, and raising the height of the pylons that the pilots must pass through (from 65 to 80 feet).
Also new for 2014 is a stepping-stone series known as the Challengers Cup, which will see up-and-coming pilots race on the day before the Red Bull Air Race main event.
The TMS and LVMS events mark new ground for Red Bull Air Race, as those will be their first American events to be staged over speedways – a departure from past runs over water and undeveloped land.
The series first held a U.S. round in 2004 at Reno, Nevada, and has since visited San Francisco, San Diego, Utah’s Monument Valley, Detroit and New York City.