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Red Bull Pulls Plug On Its Air Races

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Red Bull Pulls Plug On Its Air Races

 

News from the energy-drink race organizer sends shock waves. But why did they do it?

 

By Plane & Pilot

 

Published May 29, 2019

 

 

 

alt=Red Bull Air Racehttps://cdn.planeandpilotmag.com/2019/05/red-bull-race-web-640x427.jpg[/img]

 

2019 will be the last year of the Red Bull Air Races.

It’s supposed to be “sweet 16,” but the news coming out of Red Bull headquarters is “bittersweet.”

For 16 years now, since its inception in 2003, the Red Bull Air Races have given the aviation world the kind of star power that other motor sports are all about. But the expensive and logistically difficult-to-produce events haven’t created household names, as is the case with other motor sports, though the company didn’t cite that as a cause for its decision.

The news came as a shock, with the company suddenly announcing today (Wednesday, May 29) that 2019 will be its last year. Three races remain for this year’s series, with events in Russia, Hungary and Japan. In all, the series has included more than 90 races.

 

The release said that, “Red Bull has decided not to continue the Red Bull Air Race World Championship beyond the 2019 season.” The explanation it gave should come as little surprise to those who have seen racing events come and go in aviation. With the exception of the National Championship Air Races at Reno, there haven’t been successful races since the Golden Age of racing that ended with the beginning of the US involvement in World War II.

So why is Red Bull pulling the plug? (And it does sound like done deal, unfortunately.) In its short statement, the company said that the races never generated “the level of outside interest as many other Red Bull events across the world.”

The company ended the release by thanking all of its pilots and their teams, as well as Red Bull employees “for all they have done to make these enjoyable and memorable events.”

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Perhaps the desire for sugar and caffein is lessening? Nev

 

Yup - my doctor reckons I should cut down, or eliminate, both!

Neil

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Perhaps the desire for sugar and caffein is lessening? Nev

Not among the younger (teen) generation I think.

Red Bull may actually be not strong enough, with alot more competition these days.

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Posted (edited)

If you watch Formula One, you can go jump in your clapped-out $300 Hyundai, and pretend you're an F1 driver ...

If you watch World Championship soccer or AFL football, you can go get your ball, and pretend that one day you'll be playing in the World Cup or the AFL Premiership ...

If you watch powerboat racing, you can jump in your $1500 bondwood speedboat powered by a 186 Holden, and practise at being Donald Campbell - even if it is only at 48 kts flat-out...

If you watch the Isle of Man TT races, you can jump on your Honda step-through, and practise weaving through bends at 60kmh, like you're doing 280kmh on the TT track ...

However ... if you watch the Red Bull aircraft pulling fancy stunts, and diving through obstacles with only metres to spare ... it's a bit more of an obstacle to try and purchase something within your working-man budget, that flies - only to find that you are then very limited in what you can actually do with that little aircraft ... :crying:

Edited by Guest
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I love watching the Red Bull air races, but for the most part I never know when they're on, so I would imagine they could use better publicity and screening on free to air. I would pay to go and watch, but they only seem to be in out of the way places. Perth had a good turn out, but that was years ago, somewhere on the east coast would bring more spectators. Racing in places like Abu Dhabi probably bring wealthy spectators, but would have to limit numbers.

 

I think a little differently to Onetrack, I ride road bikes so don't care about the GP, I drive a car so don't care about F1, I can kick a ball if I want so don't care about footy, but I can't get to fly like that so I love watching the Red Bull air races.

Maybe we need the ultralight air races. Drifter pylon racing would be fun and they would have to be fairly closely matched. You could have different categories for 503, 582 and 912 powered Drifters.

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I had the pleasure of attending two of the Perth events, and relished the opportunity of observing the top echelon of pilots demonstrate their considerable skills, making something that appears really challenging, be performed almost without fault time after time. The real competition seemed to be who could gain a few hundreds of a second advantage over the other pilots.

 

The bit I enjoyed was the impromptu aerobatics once they were through the final gate, and trying to work out whether they were expressing joy or frustration!

 

Perth Water was such a brilliant location, with the airstrip located on Langley Park, and Perth city as a backdrop. We used to position ourselves adjacent to the runway threshold, and once the Fremantle Doctor was in keenly observe the crosswind landings with some mechanical turbulence thrown in for good measure. I presume prop clearance considerations had landings tending towards three pointers, yet for all the precision displayed in the air some pilots were a bit ungainly getting established on terra firma.

 

The logistics and expense of running these shows at multiple locations in the world would have been substantial, and as in Perth most of the spectators had the chance to observe proceeding without a charge.

 

After the initial success of the Red Bull Races they did not return to Perth, and with the fatal accident at the Australia Day Fireworks sadly we have probably seen the last of flying displays in front of a massed audience at Perth Water, diminishing the opportunity to showcase our industry, or something we are keenly passionate about.

 

For all the fun I have had in a Airtourer 100 I suffer no illusions about the vast chasm in performance between our respective steads, but I have experienced enough to really appreciate the demonstration of considerable skill, mostly done at about zot feet, as opposed to my 3000 feet insurance policy!

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Posted (edited)

It will always be difficult for "fringe sports" to get coverage. Campdrafting, arguably Australia's only indigenous sport, rarely rates a mention on the media, while imports like Cutting Horses are heavily plugged.

My local RSL has multiple screens feeding constant footy and horse racing to jaded gamblers, but refused the request by this long-time member to switch one set over to Superbikes racing for one hour each month.

Edited by Guest
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I'm afraid that the simple fact is, flying is a minority activity that the majority of the population don't identify with. The only time they go near an aicraft is when they go on holiday and that's an extremely sanitised experience designed to prevent passengers becoming 'terrified' as it 'plummets from the sky', as any journalist will tell you.

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Well said. We are a minority of a minority who only get noticed when we come to grief. One of the reasons we should always work together, because no one else really cares a fig.. Nev

Edited by Guest
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Posted (edited)

The Avalon Airshow drew 175,000 people in Year 1, and the last figure was 210,000 for 2017

The Carol Richards organised Natflys at Narromine were huge

I went to an International Aerobatics competition at Ballarat and the attendance was big

 

The organisers need money from entry fees and the general public to finance the event, or TV contracts

The participants either need to totally finance their appearance, or obtain money from sales from advertising or sponsors

Any sponsors need to obtain their money from sale of goods or sales from advertising.

 

Offshore boat racers seem to be spending on the wrong side of a million dollars to compete in events from north Queensland to Western Australia without bothering about spectators

If you happen to see a few of them in the town chances are that if you watch from the headlands in the next couple of days you'll see them out there in the distance, pretty much silent.

The Southern 80 ski races on the Murray are right in your face, and thousands of spectators attend.

 

Formula 1 is partly in your face and pulls big attendances for the atmosphere and sound, but the money train is through sponsorship (teams), but ultimately world wide television advertising to the extent that the races are at unpopular times here and in other parts of the world because F1 is glued to prime time Europe.

 

As soon as you need other people's money for your sport the key to success is understanding that you are no longer out there to be a champion, you're there to be an entertainer; to put on a show.

 

CAMS motor racing nearly died out in Australia, coming to a head when the Group C cars which used to race at Bathurst were replaced by a technically correct improvement which had no attraction to the fans. They compounded the problem by being autocratic about venues and classes; once again being technically correct, but they lost their audience. An independent group started up "V8 Supercars, made their own category rules" and brought car racing close to the people. The sponsors were able to make their money (I designed a B Double for one team just for their marketing items; turnover $3 million at Bathurst), the TV advertising poured in money, and it has been a success.

 

In the US, the Indianapolis 500, and the Daytona 500 motor races have managed to combine close up spectator areas and a choreographed show

Daytona 2006 had 20 million TV viewers, Indy 500 5.4 TV viewers and a purse of $13 million to attract competitors.

 

That purse is what pays for your machine, its repairs and upkeep, and your travel costs.

We were having a similar discussion to this one with one of the speedway classes which was showing up with only 3 or 4 cars to complete, and insisting on at least three heats to decide the final start positions and other time wasting activities

The Spectators lost interest, the Promoters needed spectators and the class was in danger of becoming extinct.

The sponsors had long gone, so I set up an arrangement where there was a $50.00 entry fee but the prizes went from ribbons only to $1,000/$500/$200 for first second and third, and the races were handicaps where the fastest car started rear of field. Within a few months we were fronting with 30 cars and being invited back to the big tracks. It was all about entertainment.

 

Harness Racing spectator number fell away a few years ago, but regular racing was needed to sustain the TAB gamblers.

Shepparton Racetrack solved the problem by closing their race meeting to the public, and just running TV cameras with a commentator.

The operating costs reduced to a viable level and the general public around Australia didn't notice the difference.

 

I'm not sure why the Ballarat aerobatics event hasn't been back; possibly the logistics cost to bring the aircraft out vs income.

It had a component where we would get very close to the aircraft, with marshals manning the barriers, but they were specs in the sky, and the rules weren't spelled out, so you couldn't pick a winner yourself. So it wasn't a good package for income success.

 

Getting back to Red Bull, if we assume the decision was based on cost (which it may not have been), there is the difficulty of world wide logistics, which F1 have succeeded in mastering, but at a cost, and the difficulty of enclosing all the spectators behind entry gates in places like Perth, but maybe also getting the numbers of competitors to each race.

Edited by turboplanner
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Posted (edited)

You can't compare U.S. numbers and events to Australian numbers and events. In Australia, a good entertaining event might bring in 5,000 spectators.

A similar event in the U.S. will bring in 100,000 spectators, just simply because they have nearly 14 times the population of Australia - and also because the spectator entry fees are generally less, due to event costs being spread over a much bigger number of spectators.

Edited by Guest

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You can't compare U.S. numbers and events to Australian numbers and events. In Australia, a good entertaining event might bring in 5,000 spectators.

A similar event in the U.S. will bring in 100,000 spectators, just simply because they have nearly 14 times the population of Australia - and also because the spectator entry fees are generally less, due to event costs being spread over a much bigger number of spectators.

You can’t compare the numbers, but the principles are the same.

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