Red Bull Air Race prepares to return in 2014 as the fastest motorsport series in the world, ready to wow the crowds once more. Alongside next season's new racing rules and regulations, fans will see the return of the world-renowned pylon Air Gates.
And since their last public outing in 2010, the teams at Red Bull Air Race have been working hard to engineer the safest, most stable pylons yet.
An Elevated Flight Window
For the 2014 season, the race pylons will be bigger and better than ever, retaining their iconic cone shape, but with marked safety improvements. "The most obvious change for the new pylons is their overall height - at 25m high, they will stand 5m taller than those used in the 2010 Red Bull Air Race World Championship.
The one-sided, asymmetrical pylon cones will once again have a straight inner edge with an inclined outer edge, creating a perfect rectangular flight window between the Air Gates. But crucially, the change in pylon height has elevated the flight window by 5m, from 10m to 15m from the ground– improving the overall flying safety of the race track.
Strength and Stability
Red Bull Air Race pylons must serve two fundamental purposes - rip apart instantly on contact without impacting the pilot or plane, but also remain stationary in all weather conditions.
Since the first races in 2003, 30 different materials and fabrics have been assessed for their suitability as Red Bull Air Race pylons. This process has involved rigorous assessments, from simple 'pylon hit' simulations using cars with mounted wings, to highly sophisticated computer calculations.
A closer look at the pylons reveals that each cone structure is manufactured using different materials. The nine segments that make up each pylon are all defined by their maximum strength allowed – the requested strengths vary from less than 30kg, up to 300kg per 5cm of material. With the change in height, the shape of the new pylons had to be adapted, and the materials used to make the Air Gates re-evaluated.
The result is that the pylons now have a base diameter of 5m, and a top diameter of just 0.75m. The top part of each pylon is made from spinnaker fabrics – lightweight, flexible materials used to make boat sails. The spinnaker fabrics used in the new pylon tops weigh around 40% less than standard printer paper.
With safer flight windows, fans can expect to witness the best pilots in the world furiously battle it out in the safest Red Bull Air Race World Championship yet.