September 4, 2014

Red Bull Air Race makes first stop in Texas

Airplanes will be racing at 250 mph at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend.

For the first time in Texas, spectators will be able to look down upon some of the most skilled pilots in the world.

That’s right, look down at airplanes moving at 250 mph, ducking and dipping through pylons in a race against the clock.

The Red Bull Air Race is making one of its two U.S. stops Saturday and Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

And, yes, these planes dip and maneuver at extremely low altitudes, putting the action right in the face of spectators.

“For us, it’s a very confined area, so it’s really small and really technical,” Air Race pilot and Corpus Christi native Kirby Chambliss said. “There are a lot of things that have to happen really fast. ... That sensation of speed — not only will we have it, but everyone else will have it too.”

Chambliss was a founding racer of the event in 2003. A love for speed that came from motorcycle racing in his youth and the tactical skill from years of acrobatic flying make for the perfect combination in an air racer, Chambliss said.

The stop in Texas is the sixth of an eight-round season that stretches across the globe from Malaysia and Abu Dhabi to Texas and Las Vegas.. Texas will be the first race in the U.S. since New York in 2010.

Pilots race through a series of gates, made from enormous inflatable pylons, set up throughout the 1 1/2-mile TMS track to make for an exciting day of sharp banks and acrobatic twists and turns that pull enough Gs to push water from the plane, creating long-stretching vapor trails.

What makes air races different and arguably more exciting than ground races is the different paths each pilot can take to try to shave time off the clock, Chambliss said.

“We just have to maneuver these airplanes through all the different gates so we will actually not always be on the exact same flight path,” he said. “Some people may go up and over higher and some may go flatter. It’s a different piece of concrete or asphalt we’re racing on.”

From one Texan to another, Chambliss said this is a must-see event for any sports fan in North Texas.

“The thing about it is, you’re getting to see something very unique,” he said. “To be able to see it live, it’s amazing.”

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