Positioned on the Pacific Coast just a few miles from Mexico, San Diego boasts pristine beaches, summery boardwalks and one of the most ideal climates in all of North America. It’s also the aviation hub that was home to the Top Gun naval school, and the knowledgeable fans who line the shore will be treated to a thrilling showdown as world champions and new mavericks go head-to-head.
Every team is acutely aware that the pilot who triumphs at the second race of the season can go on to win it all: that’s what happened last year when Germany’s Matthias Dolderer dominated the standings from race number two right through to his World Championship victory. At this Feburary’s season opener in Abu Dhabi, Czech pilot Martin Šonka out-flew Dolderer and the rest of the field to claim his first race win, with Spain’s Juan Velarde clinching a career first of his own with second place. Can Šonka or Velarde continue the momentum, or will Dolderer charge back? And then there’s the motivation of a home race for the USA’s Kirby Chambliss and Michael Goulian – former World Champion Chambliss has two San Diego podiums to his name already. Nicolas Ivanoff of France is the defending San Diego winner from the last race in 2009, and Matt Hall, an Australian with his own Top Gun pedigree, will be blasting into the skies with a brand-new raceplane. In short, any one of the 14 pilots can grab the advantage with this race.
“This is one to look forward to. It’s a fantastic venue, right in front of the city,” says Steve Jones, a former Red Bull Air Race pilot who is now its Race Director. “The track is very similar to Abu Dhabi in terms of maneuvering turns. It’s going to be a great race.”