To make the Red Bull Air Race even more thrilling for 2016, officials have revealed a revised race format. The new format focuses even more on timing, putting heightened emphasis on the skills of the pilots and their teams. In a sport where winning or losing can hinge on thousandths of a second, this could be the most exciting season yet.
The overall Race Day structure remains the same with the starting order in the Round of 14 based on the pilots' Qualifying time and the winner of each heat advancing, plus the round's fastest loser.
Next up are more elimination pairings in the Round of 8, and that's where the key change comes in. Beginning in 2016, the eight pilots will be reseeded based on their Round of 14 timings. The fastest pilot from the Round of 14 will race against the eighth-fastest, the second-fastest will face the seventh-fastest, and so on. The winner of each heat advances to the Final 4.
Another change is that in the rare instance when both pilots fail to score a valid time, neither pilot will move on to the subsequent round. If this occurs in the Round of 14 a second fastest loser – the next pilot in line based on the times recorded among those who lost their heat will go through to the Round of 8. If it happens in the Round of 8 the fastest loser from the other Round of 8 heats will qualify for the Final 4.
"We continually review our operations and format to improve competitiveness and fairness. We had two scenarios in 2015 where we had the same pairing in the Round of 14 and Round of 8. So, we changed the order of the Round of 8 to be directly related to the time that each pilot posted in his Round of 14," explained Race Director Jim DiMatteo. "We all feel this order is more fair to the pilots and improves the competition for any given location, ultimately resulting in an even more exciting race."
"I think the new race format is much more fair, because it supports those putting effort in all rounds before the final," said Master Class pilot Hannes Arch, who has stood on the championship podium the past five consecutive seasons, including a World Championship title in 2008. Arch and the rest of the pilots will get their first chance to race in the new format when the high speed, low altitude action kicks off at the season opener in Abu Dhabi on 11-12 March 2016.
The 2016 Race Format