In the fight to gain an edge over the other pilots the team technicians are looking at ways to improve airflow and reduce drag on the wing, as they believe it will help the pilots get better times in the circuit.
Last season's Red Bull Air Race World Championship saw Nigel Lamb take to the skies with wingtips on the edge of his MXS-R. After he was crowned World Champion, other teams thought he must be on to something and are adjusting their raceplanes accordingly.
One of the most obvious changes in the field is Matt Hall's aircraft. He now has similar winglets to those on Lamb's aircraft. "They have been designed from scratch," said Irenuesz 'Eric' Cieslar, Matt Hall Racing's team technician. "They are different from Nigel's. Our winglets come up from the front of the wing whereas Nigel's come up from the back. We had an aerodynamicist take a look and he said that was the best way to do it."
Although winglets came to the attention of everyone quite recently, it is something that has been on the mind of the pilots for some time. "Matt had been thinking of them for a while, and we decided to push the button after Spielberg. That gave us only three months to get them ready. Matt's still got to learn how to fly with them, but he's happy with them," said Cieslar.
Matthias Dolderer Racing is another team that has decided to change the end of their wings by adding new winglets. "Everyone knows you have drag and so winglets can help. Everyone is thinking of ways to make the raceplane faster," explained Tobias Odewald, Dolderer's technician. "Aircraft designers were working on some ideas and asked us if we wanted to try them. They're experts so know what they're doing.
"Matthias and I had been talking since the middle of last season about adding them, but we didn't decide on it until after the final race. He needs to learn how to fly the aircraft again as the characteristics have changed," added Odewald.
Nigel Lamb's team has also added another modification to the wing of the team's MXS-R. Nigel 'Hux' Huxtable, Lamb's technician, has put an aileron fence between the end of the aileron and the fuselage. "These will stop the flow of air moving towards the fuselage and reduce drag in the same way the winglet does. It will make the aileron more effective, improving roll rate," said Hux. "With all the pilots so close on the timesheets, any advantage could mean the difference between the podium and last place. If these mods work, more technicians will be wandering round these hangars."