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Canadian McCleod ready for 2014 Red Bull races

Feb. 25, 2014, Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. - The Red Bull Air Race World Championship will be back in the skies on February 28 and March 1 with a triumphant return to Abu Dhabi for the seventh season opener over the sparkling waters of the Persian Gulf.


February 25, 2014
By Carey Fredericks

Reigning champion Paul Bonhomme of Britain, who won the last race in Abu Dhabi in 2010, will be looking to get his title defense off to a flying start in the UAE's capital city against 11 of the world's most talented pilots, including London, Ontario's own Pete McCleod, in the high-speed, low-altitude racing action in front of tens of thousands of spectators expected to watch from the waterfront.

The Red Bull Air Race, returning after a three-year break, will be larger than ever in 2014 with eight stops in seven countries on three continents, including Croatia, Malaysia, Britain, Poland, the United States and China.

"We're all extremely excited to relaunch the Red Bull Air Race and everyone from the pilots and their technicians to the entire organization have been working very hard for many months to ensure that we are all in top shape to conduct a safe, exciting and competitive race," said Red Bull Air Race Race Director Jim DiMatteo. "Abu Dhabi is a perfect location to kick off the season with its typically good weather at this time of the year and its majestic backdrop."

Bonhomme, 2008 champion Hannes Arch of Austria, America's Kirby Chambliss, who won the 2006 world championship, McCleod and the other eight ace pilots from a total of 10 countries have been training for the racing for the last year and will be battling it out for valuable championship points in the scorching desert heat in the first of eight Red Bull Air Race World Championship rounds scheduled for 2014.

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"Red Bull Air Race is unlike any other flying event in the world, testing the pilots speed, daring and stamina," said Pete McCleod. "After a three year hiatus, new rules and an improved field there's something spectacular in store for both old and new fans alike."

Abu Dhabi, the fast-growing cosmopolitan city on the Persian Gulf, is familiar territory for the 12 experienced Red Bull Air Race pilots. It hosted the season opener between 2005 and 2010. Bonhomme won the race here in 2008 and 2010 while Hungary's Peter Besenyei took first in 2005 and 2007. Chambliss won in Abu Dhabi in 2006 and Arch took first place honours in 2009.

In the Red Bull Air Race pilots race against the clock as they try to navigate their racing planes as fast as possible through a challenging low-altitude slalom course filled with Air Gate obstacles. The pilots reach speeds of up to 370 kilometres per hour and endure forces of up to 10Gs in the tight turns on courses.

The capricious winds of Abu Dhabi can make the race track – which stretches out for some eight kilometres over the turquoise waters in front of the city's Corniche Road – especially challenging. Winds can be blowing steadily in one direction before abruptly changing and blowing in the opposition direction just moments later. Temperatures in the arid region can rise well above 30 degrees C in late February.