Mason's ten-year dream is coming true
The Challenger Class of the Red Bull Air Race has been a feeder series for the Master Class since its introduction in 2014. There have been seven pilots make the move up in the five seasons, and this leaves room in the Challenger camp for more pilots to begin their Red Bull Air Race career.
One pilot competing in his first race today is 25-year-old southern Californian Sammy Mason. No matter his final performance today, he will make history by being the youngest pilot ever to compete in an Air Race – no pressure then...
Before Mason entered the track for today’s race, we caught up with him to see how the pre-race nerves were.
Sammy, welcome to the Red Bull Air Race, how are you feeling so far?
Sammy Mason: “I’m feeling really good. I’m starting to relax now that I’ve been at the Race Airport for a week, trying to get in the groove of things. Yesterday’s Qualifying for me couldn’t have gone better. It was a clean, penalty-free flight and the conditions were perfect. I flew the lines I wanted to fly. I flew exactly how I wanted to and this is a huge confidence boost going into my first race.”
What’s been your main goal this week?
SM: "No pylon hits and just to fly clean and smooth, which I have done so far. I’ve had a couple of incorrect level penalties, which I’m a little frustrated with, but I’m looking forward to today.
You’re a third generation pilot, so how do you feel being part of the Red Bull Air Race?
SM: "I’m honoured to be here. I’m getting to fly an Edge, through pylons, in Abu Dhabi. That’s crazy! It’s unreal, when you think about it. I’m really excited for the race."
You’ve had several flight in the Edge now, have you flown one much before?
SM: "No, I fly a 1976 Pitts Special, that’s my high-performance aerobatic aeroplane, which is very low performance compared to the Edge. It’s a bit of a jump for sure, but it feels very similar to my Pitts, actually. The ailerons and the flying characteristics are similar. So I really like the Edge and it’s been a natural progression for me.”
Are you nervous about anything today?
SM: "I think I’m most nervous about the fact that all my buddies at home are going to be watching. But no, I feel a little nervous before each flight, but once I get in the raceplane the nerves kind of go away and I just get in the zone. I feel good and relaxed now that I’ve had, for me, a successful Qualifying."
How did you feel the first time you heard Steve Jones say 'Number 25, Mason, you’re cleared into the track. Smoke on!'?
SM: “Yeah, it was a great moment. It didn't really all sink in until I landed, but yeah, when I landed I kind of had chills. This was a pretty amazing moment for me. I’ve been working towards it for ten years, so it’s good to finally be here.”
And finally, what are your hopes for today’s race and your first season?
SM: “To continue what I’ve been doing. Not taking too much risk in the track. Fly smooth, clean, penalty free, and the same for the year. Just fly clean and try not to hit any pylons. It’s my first year so I don’t have huge expectations, but I’d like to do well, for sure.”
You can see how Mason gets on in his first race when it begins at 12:45 local time. Watch all the action HERE.