The Red Bull Air Race returns to Abu Dhabi Corniche this weekend, with racing action on Friday and Saturday afternoons. Look to the skies on Thursday, however, and you may also catch a glimpse of the pilots practising. Here are eight things to help you prepare for the event.
For those who want to take the hassle out of the weekend, hospitality tickets at the Hiltonia Abu Dhabi are available. As well as a buffet and unlimited Red Bull and soft drinks, spectators will have some of the best views of the action from the 11,000 square metre beach or floating lounge. Easy access self-parking is also included in the package, which costs Dh399 on Friday, Dh499 on Saturday or Dh599 for the full weekend. Children's tickets (6-12 years) can be bought at the door with a 50 per cent discount. Hospitality tickets are available through www.ticketmaster.ae
Where to watch
There are free spectator areas along the Corniche towards Emirates Palace and along Breakwater heading out to Marina Mall. Parking may be problematic so take a taxi if possible. Some hotels along the Corniche have offers to entice people to watch the race. St Regis Abu Dhabi has two options – a barbecue with beach access at Cabana Bar & Grill at the Nation Riviera Beach Club for Dh276 per person (including taxes), or an a la carte menu at Azura Panoramic Lounge. To book, call 02 694 4553 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abu Dhabi milestones
Abu Dhabi has hosted the Red Bull Air Race 10 times – more than any other city. It has also been the opening host city during every one of the 10 seasons. This year also marks another milestone for Abu Dhabi. It’s hosting the 75th race.
Pilots to watch out for
There are 14 pilots in the Master Class division in the Red Bull Air Race, including the 2016 world champion Matthias Dolderer, from Germany, who finished first or second in every race last year. Hot on his tail has been Australia’s Matt Hall, one of the most consistent and tenacious pilots in the series. A third-generation pilot, Hall has been second in the championship for two years running and will be looking to do one better this year.
The first and only female pilot in the Red Bull Air Race is Melanie Astles, who competes against eight other pilots in the Challenger Class division. The five-time French Aerobatic Champion, who has more than 4,000 flying hours, is competing for the second year in the Red Bull Air Race series.
The course runs between the Corniche and the Breakwater, giving spectators plenty of viewing opportunities. The action starts at 12pm on Friday, qualifying day, with the Challenger Class free practice. On Saturday, race day, the Challenger Cup gets under way at 1pm.
A side act at the Red Bull Air Race is aerobatic paraglider Pal Takats. The 31-year-old Hungarian daredevil will perform spectacular acro stunts on Friday and Saturday. After taking a beginners paragliding course in 2001, he quickly discovered it would become more than a hobby and eventually taught himself acro tricks. He competed in his first acro competition in 2005 and hasn’t looked back since.
While most people will be looking to the skies, there will be entertainment on the ground too. Local acts Aman Sheriff, Millie Page and As Per Casper take to the stage in the “activation area” on the Breakwater on Thursday from 7pm. On Friday, We Speak in Colors, Adam Kadabra and Jay and Foe will perform in half-hour slots from 4pm, while Doug Heath, Khalifa Thani and Abbo (pictured) entertain on Saturday from 4pm.