The Misery Of The Pylon Hit

The best pylon hits caught on camera

It's what made the Red Bull Air Race unique. Flying through pylons, close to the ground. Occasionally a pylon got clipped. Here are some of the best images of pylon hits over the years...

While Red Bull Air Race teams have always dreaded the time penalty that comes with pylon hits, the images that result when a 25-metre mountain of fabric bursts are spectacular. Here are some of the biggest pylon hits of recent seasons.

Even Hungarian icon Peter Besenyei, who was instrumental in developing the pylon concept when the Red Bull Air Race began, couldn’t avoid grazing an Air Gate from time to time. His pylon strike against the backdrop of the Abu Dhabi skyline got the 2015 season off to a spectacular start.

In the summer of that same year, a windy stop in Rovinj, Croatia served up a swarm of pylon hits, including a sensational strike by Austria’s Hannes Arch, and it was the turn of Australia’s Matt Hall at another blustery stop, the season finale in Las Vegas, USA. Interestingly, both pilots won those respective races.

In 2016, another legend of the sport, Nigel Lamb of Great Britain, had a jaw-dropping pylon hit in front of his home crowds at Ascot Racecourse. Then, later in the season, Chile’s Cristian Bolton popped a pylon to memorable effect against the backdrop of desert mountains when the Red Bull Air Race returned to Las Vegas.

While the pylons are designed to burst harmlessly when they come in contact with a raceplane, some of the most visually stunning pylon hits also resulted in drama on the ground on the rare occasion that a harder-than-usual impact necessitated raceplane repair. At the 2018 season finale in Fort Worth, USA, the overall leader, US pilot Michael Goulian, hit a pylon during Free Practice that required quick work by his team to fix a wingtip in time to compete. Goulian would go on to finish eighth in the race and third in the World Championship. More recently, Matthias Dolderer of Germany clobbered a pylon with such force in Qualifying for the 2019 race in Kazan, Russia that the resulting wingtip damage could not be repaired in time for race day.

But perhaps the most momentous pylon hit of 2019 came in the final round of the season finale, when Canada’s Pete McLeod clipped the very top of an Air Gate. The red scrap of fabric sailing into the air looked tiny against the towering clouds in Chiba, Japan. But the outcome was huge as his penalty gave Matt Hall breathing room to play it safe in his own run, where the Australian clinched his first World Championship.
 

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