Imagine you're racing here in Chiba. You fly through the Start/Finish Gate at exactly 200kts. You swoop round the single pylon at Gate 2, level off for Gate 3 and there it is – Gate 4 – the first vertical turning manoeuvre. Now, you want to be quick, you want to turn your raceplane as quickly as possible and start heading back down the track.
The Chiba track is fast. You'll arrive at that turn at close to the 200kts entry speed, the last thing you want to do is over-G. Big-G can be bad news in the Red Bull Air Race, so how do you stay fast, stay in the rules, and win?
At the quick tracks like Chiba, this is the biggest concern for all the pilots. The consequence for an Over-G is a DNF result (Did Not Finish), which brings the run to an eary end. Not too bad in Free Practice, not the worst news in Qualifying – but do it on Race Day and it could see you without any World Championship points.
The rules of the Red Bull Air Race state that the pilot will receive a DNF if he or she pulls more than 10G for longer than 0.6s, which isn't much time to react. So how do the pilots try to ensure they don't over G? "You have a lot of speed as you enter the first vertical turning manoeuvre," said Frenchman Nicolas Ivanoff. "You have to be careful. It's harder when it's bumpy in the racetrack. You can be on 10Gs in the turn and then the wind can give you one more G without doing anything. It's harder when you're out on the track for the first time, because you can't be sure how you'll perform," he explained.
It's a valid point; in Free Practice 1 on Friday morning there were seven over-Gs, highlighting how easy it can be.
Francois Le Vot agrees: "Every vertical manoeuvre is easy to over G. At the beginning of the manoeuvre you can be overly aggressive because you're motivated and full of adrenaline. In this part of the track I really focus on the G-meter and I release as soon as there is a flash of red," he said.
The pilots in the Red Bull Air Race are extremely experienced and will fly on instinct. "As soon as you think about the possibility of an over G, it's already happened," explained 2008 World Champion Hannes Arch. "So it's just a matter of timing and how long you want to stay in the over G – that's the challenge," he added.
In Chiba, the track is long, relatively straight and the vertical turning manoeuvres will have to be navigated with spilt-second precision. "If you stay below 10G, you're slow," said Arch. "The game is who can over G in the legal amount of time, which is 0.6s and stay below 12G, which is the maximum. So the best would be 11.9G for 0.6s – and that's the trick at this track," he concluded.