Well, on Saturday & Sunday just gone, the Red Bull Air Race spectacular rolled into my lil ol hometown of Perth, Western Australia for the 2nd time (I missed it last year, due to being out of town).
This time I made sure I went, and it was an awesome experience to see those “magnificent men in their flying machines!”
My plan was to actual go down to Langley Park on Saturday and see the planes & meet the pilots – they had an open hour (and a half) where you could get up & close with it all, and then on Sunday I planned to attend the actual race.
However, that’s not quite how it worked out, because my friend Michelle and I decided to take a drive over to South Perth and see what the parking would be like, in anticipation of a Sunday trip. I figured it wouldn’t be as crowded on the day of the trials as on the day of the final…
We found a spot to park, and walked for about 15-20 mins to get to the foreshore, where the whole darn shootin match was up and running.
Lots of people (although less than I expected), LOTS of portaloos (hi Kenny!), and the grandstands set up, as well as the outdoor giant screen TV.
Not long after we arrived, they started, so there I was with my video camera in hand, standing right near the shore, eagerly watching and filming it all.
To say it was exciting was an understatement!
While I have attended 3-4 air shows at the RAAF base in Pearce and seen F111′s, F-18s and all sorts of other aircraft in flight and on the tarmac, there was something extra-exciting about watching these guys throw their little planes around the Perth sky, just metres above the Swan River.
It sent goose bumps up and down my spine at times (and reminded me of my lost dream of being an airforce pilot as a boy) as they would shallow dive for the start line, and then whip around the 3 chicane pylons (called the “slalom gates”), and as for the half cuban eightÂ at the edge of the race course (I was closest to this point), it was very cool to watch, yet also frustrating when some of the pilots obviously went too high & wide, and lost time on the track heading to the next gate.
These guys are TOUGH! They have to withstand ultra high G forces (10G+ in some cases) and still stay conscious AND fly the course fast and accurately. Yes, the run is over in less than 1.5 minutes, but not many people out there (me included) could handle a 5 – 10 G turn in a plane flying at 300-400 kph! Kinda makes a lot of sports guys look like wimps!
As for the pilots themselves, I was barracking for Peter Besenyei – the grey ghost of the crew – the man Red Bull went to originally when they wanted help designing the air race concept and putting it all together. Unfortunately, on the final day, Pete bombed out and didn’t even make it into the final races on Sunday.
Really, the race was all about Bonhomme vs Mangold.
Paul Bonhomme went into this last race of the series on top of the ladder, with 2Â points clear of his rival, Mike Mangold. It was going to come down to which of these 2 guys performed best on the day, but Mangold was certainly in a difficult position, having to come from behind.
At the end of trials on Saturday, both men had made it through to the next day’s events, although neither were fastest on the day.
As for Sunday…
Well, Michelle & I got really BADLY sunburnt on Saturday, so neither of us was feeling up to going back out in the sun to watch the race, so we settled down on the sofa to watch the full race on the TV.
However, the best laid plans of mice and men, and all…
We had to leave soon after it started, to rush Michelle to the hospital for what we thought might have been a broken shoulder bone. Turns out she was lucky and it was “just” a badly sprained muscle, but the poor gal suffered for the rest of the day. I had to drug her up and put her to bed when we got back, cos she was in a lot of pain.
I ended up watching the rest of the day’s events on video (I recorded it when we left for the hospital), so I got to see the whole sad and sorry affair of Bonhomme vs Mangold play out to its disappointing conclusion.
In the end, Mike won the event, but not so much due to his great flying efforts, but more to do with Paul’s poor flying! BTW, no offence intended to Mike – I just wanted Paul to win. Mike has already won one RBAR series, so I thought it would be nice if someone else got a shot at it this year.
On the plus side, it was great to see Nicolas Ivanoff win the race, and Michael Goulian come 2nd. We met both guys on the Saturday and they were both nice guys – I was happy for them both. In addition, Nicolas was flying a Extra 300SR, so it was great to see aÂ different plane give the Edge 540s that almost all the rest of the pilots were flying a good kickin’.
It promises to open the whole affair up next season, when more pilots look like they’ll be looking outside the Edge for their new mount.
So, an exciting event all up. One I will DEFINITELY go to again, when they come back to Perth in 2008. Thanks HEAPS to Red bull for starting this – even though I absolutely loath and despise their drink,Â I totally appreciate them investing in this fun sport AND (even better) giving Perth an opportunity to host it.
To finish things off, here areÂ someÂ video clips to watch. I’ll post some of my videos later. Enjoy!