How does Red Bull Air Race work?

Posted at 1:56 PM, Sep 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-27 19:25:12-04

SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- The Red Bull Air Race World Championship is coming to Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend, but it's nothing like the four left turns fans are used to seeing at IMS.

Here's a quick Q&A on the race from, so you know what to look for (other than just "look up"):

The Red Bull Air Race World Championship is an international series of races with the participation of at least eight pilots at each race. The objective is to navigate an aerial racetrack featuring air-filled pylons in the fastest possible time incurring as few penalties as possible on three laps. Pilots can win World Championship points at each race and the pilot with the most points after the last race of the season becomes the Red Bull Air Race World Champion.

For 2016, 14 pilots will take part in the Red Bull Air Race World Championship. Master Class pilots will have obtained their Master Class Super License, as issued by the Red Bull Air Race Committee.

Take a look at the photo at the top of this story for a look at the course for the Red Bull Air Race at IMS. Flying takes place primarily in the infield of the track, just inside turns 3 and 4 and over the back straightaway. The runway for pilots is the back straightaway of IMS' road course, which a bridge over the track was removed to make way for temporarily. Pilots will navigate between pylons at different altitudes, including one tall aerial turn maneuver. 

The Red Bull Air Race consists of the following flying sessions: Free Practice, Qualifying, Round of 14, Round of 8, Final 4. In all sessions, only one pilot races in the track at a time.

FREE PRACTICE: The Free Practice sessions differ from Training. They give the pilots an opportunity to fly the track, but they are not restricted to flying laps. As long as they stay within the safety lines they may practice any part of the racetrack they would like in their allotted slot time.
QUALIFYING: Qualifying includes two mandatory Qualifying sessions. Best time counts. Results of the Qualifying session determine the order of racing on Race Day.

SUNDAY, Oct. 2:
ROUND OF 14: This flying session is completed in head-to-head heats; the seven winners plus the fastest loser move forward to the Round of 8. The head-to-head pairings are based on the qualifying session results.
ROUND OF 8: Seven winners from the Round of 14, plus the fastest loser, race in head-to-head heats again. The four winning pilots advance to the Final 4. For 2016 the eight pilots will be reseeded and head-to-head pairings are based on the Round of 14 times. For the losing pilots, their time in the Round of 8 will determine 5th to 8th place race positions.
FINAL 4: The four heat winners from the Round of 8 compete in the Final 4 for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place race positions. The pilots fly in the same order as the for previous round. They race individually and victory is based on the quickest time recorded for the session.

Race fans at IMS are used to speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour, but the planes in the Red Bull Air Race will clock max speeds of over 250 mph. You can learn more about the planes here.

Temporary hangars have been put up in the infield of the front straightaway where the Midway and limited parking is normally available. Victory circle is just south of the road course back straightaway. 

Primary seating is located in the grandstand of turns 3 and 4, but various other tickets are available. Get that info here.

Check out a video of the different rules for the Red Bull Air Race below.

World Championship points are awarded after each race, and will decide the Red Bull Air Race World Champion at the end of the season. The points system is as follows:

1st: 15

2nd: 12

3rd: 9

4th: 7

5th: 6

6th: 5

7th: 4

8th: 3

9th: 2

10th: 1

11th – 14th: 0