Only the world’s most elite pilots have the precision, skill and discipline needed to compete in the Red Bull Air Race, but attendees of this year’s event at Ascot next weekend will also have a unique opportunity to experience the exhilaration of flying a lap around the famous course.
Okay, it might not be quite the same as sitting at the controls of an Edge 540, but it’s certainly the next best thing. That’s because Red Bull has partnered with boutique visual arts studio RewindFX to create a thrillingly immersive, true-to-life simulation of the Air Race experience. Using cutting-edge scanning technology and with the help of satellite imagery of the course itself, RewindFX has built a stunningly accurate recreation of the Ascot air track, rendered in glorious high definition detail.
It’s not for the faint-hearted, but if you’ve got the need for speed, strapping on the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset will give you a pilot’s eye view of the world’s fastest motorsport in full stereoscopic 3D. You’ll witness your plane banking sharply as it negotiates tricky turns, slaloming through air gates as it reaches blistering speeds. You’ll be able to look around freely, though anyone of a nervous disposition would be best advised not to glance downwards…
To further heighten the realism of this extraordinary sensory experience, British flight ace and current Red Bull Air Race world champion Paul Bonhomme was brought on board to help with the simulator’s development. As well as ensuring the virtual plane maintained the appropriate flight path and adhered to the rules of the race, Bonhomme also wrote a number of radio directives, as well as contributing further ad-libbed dialogue that you’ll hear throughout the lap.
That combination of realistic sights and authentic sounds makes for an astonishingly convincing simulation of the real thing. It might be a cliché, but this is a genuine white-knuckle ride – you won’t be able to resist gripping the edges of your seat.
Bonhomme has described the Air Race experience as “bloody amazing”, and those at Ascot who dare to strap on their crash helmet and climb into that virtual cockpit will surely feel the same way. And don’t worry if you’re unable to attend – the mobile stand, which can cater to four wannabe pilots at once, will be touring the UK between now and early September, allowing the whole country to experience this spectacular, intoxicating simulation.