It's the final race of the 2018 season and the last track of the year will be one to test the pilots' skills.
The Fort Worth track is 4km in length and has 14 Gates (six physical gates), flown over two and a half laps. And unusually there is a start speed of 180kts for both the Challengers and the Master Class pilots, due to the cold weather and the fact that the pilots could pick up a lot of speed by the time they reach the VTM.
"The run begins with the pilot flying the first four gates counter-clockwise up to the VTM," said the Red Bull Air Race's track analyst. "Then the rest of the run is clockwise. The chicane is flown through three times and both the VTMs will be 'judged' – which means the pilots have to fly straight up until vertical."
One of the key factors for the pilots is the heading into Gate 7, which is also the Start/Finish Gate. "The pilots have to fly a hard right turn straight after the gate," said our analyst. "The more the nose of the aircraft points to the right, the quicker the time will be. You'll see the pilots trying to fly a bigger turn radius towards Gate 7, which will bring them closer to the safety line."
So it seems as if Gate 7 has an interesting balance of risk and reward. Gate 7 will also play an important part over the next few days as the wind direction is going to change on Race Day. Friday's Free Practice and Saturday's Qualifying will have a southerly wind (meaning it blows from south to north) and then on Sunday it will be northerly and low in the complete opposite direction.
For Free Practice and Qualifying, Gate 5 (Gate 12 on the second lap) to Gate 7 will be the trickiest part of the track. "At the top of the VTM the wind will be pushing them towards Gate 5 and they will have to make adjustments as there'll be less time. There's also a high chance of incorrect level penalties," explained our analyst.
Race Day will see a complete reverse in wind. "This will make gates 7, 8 and 9 tricky due to the push they will get from the wind. After having a southerly wind for two days, they would have worked out their best lines and they will have to change. There will be a 40kmh difference in wind speed for our pilots (20km on Friday and Saturday and the 20km in the other direction on Sunday). The pilots will have to adjust if they're going to win – but that's what a World Champion does," our analyst concluded.
You can follow the weekend's action starting with today's Free Practice sessions. See it HERE.