Q&A: Kirby Chambliss pre-Red Bull Air Race in Indy (Sun., 7:30p ET)

All photos unless marked: Red Bull Content Pool
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Arguably the flagship pilot of the Red Bull Air Race, Kirby Chambliss is a two-time Red Bull Air Race World Champion and will look to star in the skies over Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend. The Texas native now lives in Arizona and flies out of there; he’s been a commercial and freight pilot as well over the course of his illustrious career.

You can watch coverage of Red Bull Air Race from Indianapolis on Sunday night, October 15, at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Coverage runs til 9:30 p.m. ET. A re-air is Thursday, October 19, from noon to 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

NBCSports.com caught up with Chambliss going into the weekend, as he enters fourth in points but looks to make up the deficit.

 

MST: So heading to Indianapolis, you’ve provided some thrill rides for IndyCar drivers as co-pilots, such as Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe…

Kirby Chambliss: “It’s just such an awesome opportunity, and I appreciate Red Bull putting it together. I’ve been able to ride in an IndyCar a couple times. It’s super exciting, but the concentration you (have to have) is intense. My race only lasts usually a minute or a minute and 15 seconds. These guys have got to go 500 miles. I can have that level of concentration for that small period of time, but for those guys, it’s hours and hours and hours. It’s amazing what they do. I enjoyed every minute of it.

“I think they really enjoyed going out and taking a small slice of my world and what it’s like. They seemed to both enjoy it.”

(L-R) Indycar driver Alexander Rossi and Red Bull Air Race pilot Kirby Chambliss race down the course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA on 01 August 2016. Photo: IndyCar

MST: Can you describe the sensation of pulling 10Gs?

KC: “The airplanes turn a corner so fast that we’re in and out of the G really quick. My airplane’s rated to +/- 12Gs, and that’s its working G. So it can go beyond that. But, it’s structurally set up for unlimited amount of times at +12 and -12 Gs. So, the airplane’s good.

“The way I do it (train), is lifting weights. If you normally lift weights and you lay off for a couple months then you go out and do a really hard workout, then you’re super sore. It’s the same. I have to fly all the time, pull G all the time in order to have that high-G tolerance. That’s what I’m able to do. There’s really no substitute for it. The only that maintains that G-tolerance that I have is to go out and pull Gs all the time and that’s what I try to do.”

MST: How do you reflect back on your 2017 season?  

KC: “I look back on our year and it’s been really good. At first, we struggled just a little bit and we had a couple questionable penalties here. In Abu Dhabi, we were really fast, I think we qualified third, and things were going well and a penalty took us out. Going into the Round of 14, we didn’t get any points there, and that hurt us really bad, you always want to pick up some.

“And then, after that, we moved to San Diego and we ended up fourth there, so I was flying well. And the same in Japan – we were fast and were really close to the G, if we go over 12 Gs, the limit, then you’re thrown off the track immediately. You try and you’re trying to be fast and the only way to turn this airplane is to put it on its side, or if you’re trying to do a vertical turn, the only way to do it is to pull G. That’s what we’re doing, but you’re always trying to balance it without the Over-G. I saw that Over-G and that hurt us. And the next two races I won, which was fantastic. It’s really difficult to do.

“And then Portugal, again we were super fast and we had one penalty, otherwise we would’ve won that race too and we ended up fourth. We got taken out by half a second – I went against Yoshihide Muroya at the last race and he took us out by half a second. The whole racing is so close. There is a little bit of luck involved in how you get paired up too. If you get a good pairing, then sometimes you can have a real easy run up to the Round of 4, or you can have a super difficult run depending on who you end up going against. In Germany, like I said, we went Yoshihide pretty early on and he took us out by half a second.

“I look at it – I’ve been flying great, my team is working really well together. We know we don’t have the fastest plane but we’re probably fifth or sixth, somewhere in there. We’ve made improvements to the airplane. From last year, it’s been a really good racing season.

“We always want to be able to win the championship. Mathematically, we can win it but some guys have got to make some mistakes. Everybody tries to get bogged down in ‘How many points’ or ‘You’re leading the series’ or ‘You’re not.’ I go out and I try to win every race. I’m a two-time world champion and what I’ve found is that when I win enough races, they give me enough points, and they come back and go ‘Hey guess what? You’re the world champion!’ That would be great, but I’m just going to be here, trying to win this race and we’ll see what happens after that. That’s all that I can control.”

MST: How technical does the track look?  

KC: “It’s got some technical stuff in it, for sure. It’s not the most technically difficult one that we’ve ever flown or anything. But I think it’ll be an exciting track. It’s close to the track we had last year. It’ll be an exciting race for sure. And with the championship still up for grabs, that’s going to make it even more exciting.”

MST: What does it mean to be an American pilot competing at home?

KC: “For sure. Indianapolis: this is racing country. People love racing, it doesn’t matter what you’re racing, they just love racing. And so, as far as I’m concerned, I love to win in the United States, my home country. But, hell, I love to win everywhere, that’s what I’m here for. But, it always is that special when you’re able to win, especially if you’re able to win a championship. I’ve done that and won that in the U.S., so yeah, for sure I’m pumped up about this race. But, I just try to push all that out.

“I’ve flown in New York where you’re flying next to the Statue of Liberty and I get right next to it and I’m like ‘This is amazing.’ And then I’m like, ‘Oh, that’d right, you’re here for a reason. You’re here to race. Put all that out of your mind and get down to business here.’ So, that’s what I’ll do here. I’m here to race, I’m here to win. And that’s going to be going out and doing everything possible to make that happen.”

MST: I’m sure it’s something to describe the exhilaration of flying… 

KC: “They’re fantastic. The airplane will do whatever you ask it to. You’ve got to kind of speak it’s language because it’s very highly maneuverable and it’s an unstable airplane. The fact that it is highly maneuverable. I kind of equate it to a Ferrari or a racing car. It’s an amazing piece of machinery and again, it’ll do whatever you ask it to do. As far as the race goes, we’re going 230 miles an hour a few feet above the ground. These gates are whizzing by, you’re pulling all this G, and you’ve got to be on your line even to make the gate sometimes.

“People are always like ‘What are you thinking about? Are you think about your family? Are you thinking about ‘this?” No, I’m thinking about what’s the fastest way to get from this gate to the next gate, that’s all I’m thinking about. It takes all your concentration. You can’t be think about anything other than what you’re doing right then. It’s all in the moment for sure.”

“People also think you’re just going through the gate. Well, no, what we’re trying to do is take the most oblique angle going through there. The gates are 33 feet apart and my wingspan is 25 feet apart, so you can do the math. Maybe you can go through there 20, 25 degrees off heading, in other words not straight through there, well I’m trying to take the biggest angle that I can that’s going to give me the most advantage and the fastest run.

“But I’ve also got to balance that out of ‘I’ve got to get through that gate’ with if I touch one of the pylons, well then there’s a three-second penalty. If I was going to win by a quarter of a second, losing three seconds is gong to take you out so you’re done. But you have to take that angle because the other guy’s going to and if you don’t, he’s going to take you out. You’re always balancing everything right there too. But, again, we’re not just trying to go through the gate, There’s an optimum line that’s got to go through there that’s going to be the fastest and that’s what we’re all trying to do.”

“Sometimes been knocked by one hundredth of a second and I’ve won by one hundredth of a second or even fewer. So, we always say it’s about the length of the spinner even sitting up on the propeller. It’s really, really tight and it’s going to be a close race.”

2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona: Schedule, TV info, start times, entry lists, notable drivers, more

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The new year brings the start of a new era for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which will open the 2023 schedule with the 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

A new premier class for prototypes is the overriding story entering the 24-hour endurance race that unofficially kicks off the major-league racing season.

The new Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) cars of the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) top category will re-establish a bridge to the 24 Hours of Le Mans while bringing a new layer of engine electrification to IMSA.

With at least a few of the cars on the grid at Daytona also slated to race at Le Mans in June, it’s possible for the first time in decades (since the “Ford vs. Ferrari” battles) to have the same car win the overall title at Daytona and Le Mans.

The GTP category will feature four manufacturers, two of which are new to IMSA’s premier division. Porsche Motorsport (with Team Penske) and BMW (with Rahal Letterman Lanigan) will be fielding LMDh prototypes, joining (now-defunct) DPi category holdovers Acura (Meyer Shank Racing, Wayne Taylor Racing) and Cadillac (Chip Ganassi Racing, Action Express Racing).

Here’s what else you need to know ahead of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener Jan. 29-30 at Daytona International Speedway:


NOTABLE DRIVER ADDITIONS 

The Rolex 24 will feature 10 active drivers from the NTT IndyCar Series, including the IMSA debuts of Team Penske drivers Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who will be teamed in an LMP2 entry (teammate Will Power unfortunately had to withdraw from this debut).

Colton Herta will move into the GTP category with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud return with Meyer Shank Racing to defend their overall 2022 Rolex 24 victory. Scott Dixon also returns in the premier category with Chip Ganassi Racing for his 20th Rolex 24 start and third consecutive in the No. 01 Cadillac.

Other IndyCar drivers in the field: Romain Grosjean will make his debut in GTD Pro with Iron Lynx Racing (as a precursor to driving a GTP Lamborghini next year); Devlin DeFrancesco (Rick Ware Racing) and Rinus VeeKay (TDS Racing) are in LMP2; and Kyle Kirkwood will return in GTD with Vasser Sullivan.

Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric also will return, teaming with DeFrancesco in an LMP2 entry for Rick Ware Racing.


CAR COUNT

The Rolex 24 field was capped at 61 cars, matching last year’s field (which was the largest since 2014). The field was capped because of the space limitations for the LMDh cars of GTP in the pits and garages.

Click here for the official 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona entry list.


STARTING LINEUP

Tom Blomqvist captured the first pole position of the GTP era, qualifying defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing in first with the No. 60 ARX-06 Acura that he shares with Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud.

The No. 7 Porsche 963 of Porsche Penske Motorsports will start second.

Click here for the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona starting lineup


RACE BROADCAST

The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona will be streamed across the NBC Sports AppNBCSports.com and Peacock, which will have coverage of the event from flag to flag.

Broadcast coverage of the race coverage will begin Saturday, Jan. 28 at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBC and move to USA Network from 2:30-8 p.m. and then will be exclusively on Peacock and IMSA.TV from 8-10 p.m. Coverage will return to USA Network from 10 p.m. to midnight and then move to Peacock/IMSA.TV until 6 a.m.

From 6 a.m. until noon on Sunday, Jan. 29, Rolex 24 coverage will be available on USA Network. The conclusion of the Rolex 24 will run from noon through 2 p.m. on NBC.

HOW TO WATCH IMSA ON NBC SPORTS: Broadcast schedule for 2023

Other events that will be streamed on Peacock from Daytona during January (all times ET):

Jan. 21: IMSA VP Racing Sports Car Challenge, 2:05 p.m.

Jan. 22: IMSA VP Racing Sports Car Challenge, 12:20 p.m.

Jan. 22: IMSA Rolex 24 qualifying, 1:25 p.m.

Jan. 27: BMW Endurance Michelin Pilot Challenge, 1:45 p.m.


ROLEX 24 COVERAGE FROM NBC SPORTS

Wayne Taylor Racing takes a step up to the next level with Andretti Autosport

Austin Cindric seeks to join legendary club of Rolex 24-Daytona 500 winners

Helio Castroneves recalls “Days of Thunder” moment in 2022 Rolex 24 victory

The “Bus Bros” tackle the “Bus Stop” for Rolex 24 at Daytona debuts

Romain Grosjean adds Rolex 24 at Daytona to his crown jewel career

Tom Blomqvist beats the clock to win Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position

GTP cars make debut in “Gymkhana”-level traffic

Five things to watch in the new GTP class as a golden era of sports cars returns

Cadillac unveils paint schemes for LMDh cars

Austin Cindric, Devlin DeFrancesco, Pietro Fittipaldi teaming up in LMP2

IndyCar drivers in the 61st Rolex 24


ROLEX 24 DAILY SCHEDULE, START TIMES

Here’s a rundown of everything happening at Daytona International Speedway over the last two weeks in January, starting with the Roar test session. Rolex 24 start times and full schedule:

Wednesday, Jan. 18

7 a.m.: GTP garages open

4 p.m.: Non-GTP garages open

4 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship haulers load-in (park only)

6:30 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Thursday, Jan. 19

7 a.m.: Garages, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship haulers open

8:30 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection

10 a.m.: Rolex 24 Media Day

2 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge driver and team manager briefing

3 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver and team manager briefing

5:15 p.m.: Track walk

7:30 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Friday, Jan. 20

7 a.m.: Garages open

8:45-9:15 a.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge practice

9:30-10:45 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

1:45-2:15 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge practice

2:30-4 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

4:15-6 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice (GTD/LMP3/LMP2 4:15-5:45; 4:30-6: GTD Pro, GTP)

8 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Saturday, Jan. 21

7 a.m.: Garages open

8:40-9:15 a.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge qualifying

9:30-11 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

2:05-2:50 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Race 1 (streaming on Peacock)

3:10 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

4:30-5:30 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

6:30-8:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

10 p.m.: Garages close

Sunday, Jan. 22

7 a.m.: Garages open

10:15-11:15 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

12:20-1:05 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Race 2 (streaming on Peacock)

1:25-3 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Rolex 24 qualifying (streaming on Peacock)

8:30 p.m.: Garages close

Wednesday, Jan. 25

6 a.m.: Garages open

7:30-10 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection, non-GTP

8 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 load-in

10-11:30 a.m.: Track walk

10 a.m.-noon: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship car photos

11:30 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge team manager briefing

Noon: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team manager briefing

12:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship new driver briefing

Noon-2 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety and technical inspection, non-GTP

1:45-2:30 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

2:45-3:45 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

2:30-7:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection, GTP only

4-5:30 p.m.: Track walk

6:45 p.m.: Garages close

Thursday, Jan. 26

7 a.m.: Garages open

9-9:30 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

9:45-10:45 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11:05 a.m.-12:35 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

12:55-1:10 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 qualifying

2:25-3 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge qualifying

3:20-5:05 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice (3:20-5:05: GTD, LMP3, LMP2; 3:35-5:05: GTD Pro, GTP)

5:30-6:15 p.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 1

7:15-9 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

10:15 p.m.: Garages close

Friday, Jan. 27

7 a.m.: Garages open

9:25-9:55 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

10:15-11 a.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 2

10:30 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge driver and team manager briefing

11:20 a.m.-12:20 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

1:45-5:45 p.m.: BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona (Michelin Pilot Challenge; streaming on Peacock)

8:45 p.m.: Garages close

Saturday, Jan. 28

6:30 a.m.: Garages open

9:45 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver and team manager briefing

12:30-12:40 p.m.: Rolex 24 engine warmup

1:30-1:40 p.m.: Rolex 24 formation laps

1:40 p.m.: The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona (starting on NBC; streaming flag to flag on Peacock)

Sunday, Jan. 29

1:40 p.m.: Finish of the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona

7:30 p.m.: Garages close