From San Diego to Stockholm and eight other stops along the way, the Red Bull Air Race World Series, sponsored in part by Audi, is an extreme aviation spectacle like no other. Pilots pull up to 10g with unprecedented skill and precision in their high-performance Zivko Edge 540 race planes.
Think of Formula One, only in the air. Hamilton and Raikkonen have nothing on these throttle jockeys who navigate a series of obstacles known as "air gates" at 250 mph within only a few feet above the ground (or water, as with the case at San Diego Bay). Pilots push the planes and their own physical limits as they race against the clock. When it comes to any type of sport aviation or extreme motorsport, there's really nothing like it. More than 100,000 fans flooded both sides of the shoreline throughout the two-day round, which consists of a pre-qualifying day before pairing off in the finals.
The fierce competition between British pilot Paul Bonhomme and American pilot Mike Mangold came to a head as Bonhomme claimed his second win of the series with a time of 1:18.01 to Mangold's 1:19.24.
"I'm very pleased to take the win, said Bonhomme, who also won the San Diego round last year. "It's a challenging track here in San Diego. You have to be consistent in every session all the time. Today we saw some tight flying, and I had to work very hard to get this spot."
As part of a special encore performance, Red Bull's B0-105 CBS helicopter thrilled onlookers with aerobatic stunts never thought possible of a helicopter, including 360-degree loops, barrel rolls and other unimaginable maneuvers previously reserved only for fixed-wing aircraft. It's something you have to see to believe and even then it's hard to comprehend. Chopper pilot Charles Aaron is the only guy licensed in the United States by the Federal Aviation Administration to perform aerobatics in a helicopter, and its classifications as an experimental aircraft authorizes him to push the envelope.
Red Bull began the event in 2003 and marketed it as the most sensational air race competition ever presented. They couldn't be closer to the truth. The 2008 Red Bull Air Race World Series, presented by Audi and Breitling, moves on to Detroit before heading overseas to a series of exotic stops including Rotterdam and Budapest, before concluding in Perth.