The Stomach-Churning Return of the Red Bull Air Race

After a three-year hiatus, the craziest sport to take place in air has landed in Vegas.

When people talk about the dangers of Las Vegas, they mention financial ruin, beautiful babes, and, occasionally, venereal disease. The audience and racers of the Red Bull Air Race add a couple more to the list: fiery death at slicing end of some of the world’s fastest race planes. If anything, that danger seems to draw more folks than it turns away: the Air Race is back with a vengeance. 

For the uninitiated, the Red Bull Air Race Championship emerged nine years ago out of Red Bull’s headquarters from a group of speed-freaks driven to create a high-stakes, time-attack aerial challenge with the world’s fastest planes and best pilots. The layout of the course, using giant inflatable pylons, is low and fast, restricting all but the most technically-precise and brave pilots from qualifying. From 2005 to 2010, exhilarating races were held in the United States, United Kingdom, and South America.

After a three-year recess, the seventh stop of the eighth Red Bull Air Race took place at the famous Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Sustained winds and huge gusts meant made for an exciting opening: pylons collapsing, planes beaten about, and visibly nervous pilots. One of the top contenders, Canadian Pete McLeod, refused to finish his run because of the conditions. Shortly after, the race was canceled, with results drawn from the previous day’s qualifiers.

This crazy sport, with mean-looking, single-prop planes whose smoky exhausts make it seem like they’re always a little on fire, is something we can really get behind. Here’s to hoping that the Red Bull Air Race doesn’t stay in Vegas, and makes a triumphant worldwide return. 

Catch the Las Vegas Air Race broadcar Monday, October 27 at 7 pm on Fox Sports 1.

Photos by Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool