Evolution of the raceplane

When the Red Bull Air Race began back in 2003, pilots competed in several different aircraft. Paul Bonhomme explained that it was a "run what you brung" set up. This meant whatever was in your hangar at the time was competitive enough to be flown in the Air Race.

It's a completely different story now. Pilots are backed by structured teams. The race hangars are full of tacticians, aerodynamicists and technicians all trying to discover a new way of shaving time off the pilot's run.

Winglet refresh

Since then every Master Class team has gone on to try wingtips of various shapes and sizes. From Petr Kopfstein's small wingtips to Ben Murphy's downturned version, everyone has their variation that works for them. But what exactly do they do?

When a raceplane is in flight there is high pressure below the wings and an area of low pressure above the wings created by the airflow. The area of high pressure will try to move to the low pressure area because it's unbalanced. This is what generates lift.

Tech Talk: tail sizes

With each team trying to shave hundredths of seconds off their run time, they will try anything they can to reduce drag and increase speed. In Chiba Yoshihide Muroya tested a smaller vertical tail, but changed it back soon after when he realised he needed more time with it to get used to the change in handling. Let Red Bull Air Race Technical Director Jim "Jimbo" Reed explain the advantages and disadvantages of having a smaller tail...

The magic under the cowling

This rule change was chosen to ensure the battle for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship was fair, as well as exciting. It's also a lot safer.


The engine chosen for all raceplanes was the six-cylinder, Lycoming Thunderbolt AEIO-540-EXP. This engine produces 300hp at 2,950rpm. The powerplant for each team has been race-tuned and customised to Red Bull Air Race's exact specifications, and built in Lycoming's Advanced Technology Centre.

Tech Talk: the RPM rules

With the recent infringements of the RPM rules causing confusion amongst the fans we thought it was a good time to get Technical Director Jim "Jimbo" Reed to explain why it's so important that the pilots don't exceed the 2950rpm limit...

Behind the Scenes: judging the pilots

To ensure the Red Bull Air Race is fair there is a very comprehensive set of cameras, machines and judges checking every movement of the plane and pilot. The pilots don't always agree with the decisions, but they respect them. Three-time World Champion Paul Bonhomme investigates what the judging team go through during a race weekend...

Behind The Scenes: Ghost Plane magic

It's hard to tell the difference when it comes to split-second timing. Who can imagine what 0.007s looks like when there's a raceplane in the sky? Well the experts at Netventure have worked it out, and they've also worked out a groundbreaking way to bring it to you, the fan! Three-time World Champion Paul Bonhomme investigates what the Ghost plane actually is...

Designed to win – behind the look of the raceplanes

There is a lot to consider in a raceplane design: Will it be instantly recognisable to fans? How will it contrast against the global backdrops of the Red Bull Air Race? And does it clearly represent what the team is all about?

Victoria Griffiths, team coordinator for #11RACING piloted by Mika Brageot, sums up what may be the most important objective of all: "We wanted to look different – totally different from the rest of the aircraft flying in the race."