Worth the Weight
t's a fact that's hardly surprising when you consider their differences in physical frame, and 29kg might not seem like much of a weight difference, but when undergoing a 10G turning manoeuvre that weight equates to a hefty 290kg.
In 2010, a minimum pilot weight requirement was introduced to level the playing field. It was deemed that 80.7kg was the average weight for a pilot and anyone weighing less than the average was forced to carry additional aircraft weight in order to meet that requirement. For all the pilots that fell under that weight bracket, it meant they could sit back and put their feet up, but for the others it meant strapping on their running shoes and starting a strict dieting routine.
For 2014, a slightly different weight rule has been put in place... Throughout the history of the Red Bull Air Race, race teams were allowed to slice off weight from pretty much every part of their aircraft – including the engine – to enable them to be as light as possible in the air. This year, as part of the new safety regulations, the race planes are not allowed to drop below 698kg – that includes the pilot and fuel. In addition, the inclusion of standardised engines means the teams have an additional 20kg that they can't alter.
Talking about the weight restrictions, Team Bonhomme's technician Wade Hammond said: "The key from now on is to be as aerodynamic as possible and to be on that minimum weight – if you're under it then you get disqualified so you've got to be really careful. Then again if you're 5kg heavier, you're going to accelerate much slower than the guy who's on that minimum weight line. Most of the top guys are running at about 700kg."
Team Bonhomme have tried all sorts of wild and wonderful things to cut down on weight. "We've tried everything – at one point we even changed all the stainless steel screws for titanium ones," laughs Hammond. "To take the first 10kg off is relatively easy but then as it goes down it gets harder and harder. For example I've cut a lot of weight out of the wings but I can't cut them down any more; they're as light as they can be."
With the timing gaps closer than ever before, every kilogram will count this season. See the action live at the next stop of the 2014 Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Gdynia, Poland on 26 and 27 July. Tickets available now.