The 2016 season of the Red Bull Air Race promises to be one of the most exciting yet. 2015 saw the rise of the class of '09, with all four pilots making podiums and Matt Hall claiming two race wins. Martin Sonka also enjoyed a breakthrough year, and both Paul Bonhomme and Peter Besenyei retired leaving the World Championship wide open.
For the upcoming season there will only be three former World Champions competing in the Red Bull Air Race: Kirby Chambliss, Hannes Arch and Nigel Lamb. The US, Austrian and British pilots are more than ready to get back on the podium and all will be fighting to claim back their former titles. Here's what the three pilots had to say about the 2016 season.
Hannes Arch – World Champion 2008
"My philosophy is 'respect, accept and always stay grounded,' and in 2015 I had to accept that the second half of the season didn't go my way. But acceptance doesn't mean giving up – just the opposite. It means letting go of disappointments and moving on with more motivation than ever. Our whole team is focused and ready. It's going to be a great year."
Kirby Chambliss – World Champion 2004, 2006
"One of my New Year's resolutions for 2016 was to be this season's Red Bull Air Race World Champion. As a team, we are going to do what we need to do to achieve that result. Our new tactician Paulo Iscold, who is a professor at UMFG University in Brazil, will work on the technical side. Team Chambliss' crew chief, Jason Resop, and our team coordinator, Kayla Layton, will be returning. The race has changed immensely over the last few years, and my team and I are stepping up to meet the increasing demands. That being said, all of the race pilots are exceptional, have a vast amount of experience and cannot be underestimated. We are going to do our very best!"
Nigel Lamb – World Champion 2014
"Aircraft technology is always improving, and the pilots have all developed better techniques for racing faster. So we need to keep on progressing on all fronts – flying aircraft, development, analysis and fitness – to continually trim those precious fractions of a second in the race. Suffice to say that we learned a lot in 2015 and feel confident that we're better prepared for 2016. There can be no let up."
With the season opener in Abu Dhabi under three weeks away all 14 pilots will be making final preparations to make sure they get off to a full throttle start...