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Red Bull opener on live TVRed Bull opener on live TV

American fans eager to see Michael Goulian and Kirby Chambliss take on the air racing world will not have to wait until after the fact: The Red Bull Air Race World Championship opens the 2017 season in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, with qualifying to be broadcast online via NBC Sports Feb. 10, and the finals to air live on the NBC Sports Network Feb. 11.

Defending Red Bull Air Race World Champion Matthias Dolderer of Germany leads fellow pilots Nicolas Ivanoff of France and Martin Sonka of the Czech Republic on a pre-race flight over the new 160,000-square-meter Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 6. Photo by Predrag Vuckovic/Red Bull Content Pool.

The Americans have good reason to be encouraged heading into the main event, having posted very competitive times in the early practice runs. Chambliss led the field in the first free practice session, stopping the clock at 53.084 seconds, with Goulian 1.608 seconds slower, good for seventh in that session (there are 14 pilots competing in the Master Class).

The second free practice saw Goulian move up, posting a 53.070-second run that was good for fourth place, while Chambliss collected three seconds in penalties for insufficient smoke and for climbing through an air gate. Reigning champion Matthias Dolderer was disqualified for exceeding the G-load limit in the first practice session, but came back to lead the field in the second, posting a time of 52.564 seconds.

Michael Goulian visualizes the course before a free practice run in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Photo by Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Content Pool.

The qualifying runs will be broadcast live online by NBC starting at 7 a.m. Eastern Standard Time Feb. 10, and cable subscribers can access that live stream via the NBC Sports App, or watch the live NBC broadcast online. Qualifying times determine the seeding and head-to-head matchups for race day, which will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network starting at 9:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time Feb. 11, and also carried live via Red Bull’s worldwide online feed.

The Goulian and Chambliss teams have made upgrades for 2017, and are clearly fed up with finishing off the podium. Their practice times put them within striking distance heading into the first race of 2017, and the new season will put them in front of home crowds much sooner than in years past: The second race of the season will be April 15 and 16 in San Diego.

Meanwhile, a free PC flight simulation program gives race fans a chance to try their hand at flying like a champion.

Kirby Chambliss prepares to take off during free practice of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on Feb. 9. Photo by Balazs Gardi/Red Bull Content Pool.
Jim Moore

Jim Moore

Editor
AOPA Online Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.
Topics: Air Racing, Pilots

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