In the lead up to Rovinj, we grab five minutes with Steve Jones to get the inside scoop on what the next chapter of the 2014 season will bring.
When it comes to the fastest motorsport series in the world, Steve Jones is far more than just an authority on the subject. In fact, with a long aerobatic history, a Red Bull Air Race World Championship career spanning five seasons and now the position of Race Director and Head of Training, we'd say there are few people that match his knowledge and expertise.
2014 is the first year Jones has taken on his new role in the Race Tower, and despite missing the thrill of the high speed, low altitude race action, the British ace is glad to have his feet firmly on the ground.
"Sure there are bits that I miss," says Jones. "I used to love flying under the bridge in Budapest; I'm very envious when I see the guys doing that. And there are some bits of the track that I'd love to jump in a plane and do again. I'm very glad that I did it, but equally I'm quite glad I don't do it anymore. I know how hard it is, I know how hard the guys have to work to even be in the top half of the field. I loved my racing time but I'm enjoying other bits now."
Part of Jones' role as Head of Training is to advise the pilots, mainly the Challengers, on the best way to fly through the racetracks. With Rovinj just around the corner, we ask Jones what he makes of the challenges the pilots will be facing.
"I think one of the big challenges, as ever, is going to be the smooth flying in the chicane," he explains. "If you can fly a super efficient chicane at the start then it means you can maintain your speed going into the next section.
"In Rovinj, the interesting bit will be getting back down after the big 10 G pull up at the end of the first lap. When coming down from it there's a really tricky twist on the descent; that will be interesting! I forecast that we'll get some moans from the Masters! The Challengers won't be flying that bit; they're going to have a straighter line through that section. It'll be a good track I think."
Being situated on the Adriatic coastline, Rovinj is renowned for being blasted by the notorious Bura winds. Jones explains the unpredictable weather is a factor that cannot be overlooked.
"The pilots have to compensate for it," stresses Jones. "That's the exciting thing about the Red Bull Air Race: nothing is ever predictable. The only thing I can relate it to is white water kayaking. In white water kayaking, the gates are fixed but the water flows in all different directions, so the athletes have to battle against the changing currents.
"It's the same for the Red Bull Air Race; you have to compensate for the wind or you'll blow all over the place! That's when you see the real champions come out because it looks as if the wind's stopped blowing."
With such a close ear to the ground, Jones clearly has a few predictions of who the 'real champions' are and how Race Two will play out.
"Bonhomme always does well," says Jones without hesitation. "This is a track that's going to need a mix of smoothness and aggression – smoothness on one half, aggression on the other. Bonhomme's proven that he can do both those things beautifully. But equally, Pete McLeod did very well in Abu Dhabi; he was very close to winning. So he's definitely in the running this year.
"Always a wild card is Yoshi Muroya. He did some beautiful flying in Abu Dhabi and just had a bit of bad luck. We so often see him demonstrate moments of brilliance but then at other times his actions cost him dearly.
"But all the pilots are flying very well, and are all bunched up because they've got the same engine power. The usual guys will still be at the top, but this year it could be five of them all vying for the title. It's going to be memorable, make no mistake."
The Red Bull Air Race World Championship touches down in Rovinj on April 12th.