This year we've already had races over open sea, a man-made Corniche and the Austrian Alps. Now we have the ever-popular Budapest race with the historic city as the backdrop, and that brings it's own challenges.
While it's a question of preference for the pilots when it comes to flying conditions over land or water, the general consensus is that they each offer their own unique challenges. Fundamental differences between the two track types can include the sensation of speed, visual reference points and navigation, as well as proximity to the crowd. Nigel Lamb is a real advocate of racing over land, claiming: "... you get a better, more exciting sensation of speed. It's easier to judge height and easier to know whether or not you're on your planned racing line." Water, especially when it's glassy, can make judging height and distance more difficult, but Spanish pilot Juan Velarde claims that the contrast in colour between the Air Gates and water can actually make racing a little easier.
Budapest is a unique location, as Red Bull Air Race's track analyst explained: "It is quite special. Nowhere else do the pilots start by flying under a bridge. It will be a high speed race rather than a technical race. Nevertheless, the three vertical turning manoeuvres will represent the technical part of the track."
With race times expected to be around the minute mark and it being a fast track, "There will be a high chance of over G at the first vertical turning manoeuvre," our analyst said. "The pilots start into the track at 200kt and will gain speed on this course. When they get to the gate they will be flying very fast when they have to turn, which means it would be easy for them to pull too much G. But after this turn they will have scrubbed off speed and it won't be as much of a problem in the other vertical turns," he added.
The next challenge the pilots will have to contend with is the second vertical turn. "They will have to fly upwards for the turn rather than flat because the gate is in the middle of the river and they can't fly flat due to the closeness of the safety line. The pilots will want to try and fly as flat as possible," he said.
Another factor that could affect the race is the wind. Depending on strength and direction it could change the pilots' tactics. "If there is wind there will be some turbulence as it comes off the buildings. You can see if it's turbulent because the aircraft smoke 'twists'," he explained. "When flying in the track the wind will normally blow along the river, but above the buildings it might be blowing across the track. So when the pilots are in the vertical turn, they will try to catch the wind to gain speed. But it will all depend on how, or if, the wind is blowing," he concluded.
Tickets for the Budapest race, taking place on 16-17 July, are on sale. Get yours HERE.