The Race Tower in the Red Bull Air Race is the nerve centre of the sport. Big decisions are made here and races are won and lost.
The tower from the outside is a tall and grey structure and while many think that it is the top level that matters most—the place most visible to the spectator—there are actually four levels that all play a big role in the aspects of security, broadcasting and of course, ensuring that the race is safe and that the pilots are following the rules.
The tower, at its peak, is filled with experts in various areas from the big things like track safety and weather, to the issues of security.
The top level of the control tower is for the race control which is filled with monitors and touchscreens aplenty and it is where the race director, Jim DiMatteo, gives the famous "smoke on" clearing to the pilots to do their runs in the race track.
Apart from the top level where the view of the track is panoramic, the other floors in the tower are just as important to ensure a safe, fun, and clean Red Bull Air Race. Further down is where the race referees—sanctioned by the FAI—analyze video from all 25 cameras including the Wescam attached to the RB105 helicopter to determine if the pilots are following the rules.
If there are discrepancies such as the pilot's knife-edge going under or over the 20 degrees leeway given or anything else, the penalties are applied here. The latest in video technology is also located in this control room.
Further down in the race control tower is where live TV broadcasts are fed from as well as the editing for the one hour world program. The place looks like a more sophisticated version of the Death Star's super-laser control room! Plenty of monitors and screens give hundreds of hours of video and terabytes of photos both from the media photographers, and the broadcasting and aircraft cameras.
Indeed, the race tower is the central component of the Red Bull Air Race. It's more than just the place where you hear "smoke on" and while the spectators are watching and enjoying the race, the people in the tower are hard at work to make sure that the competition is healthy and fair, as well as ensuring safety and logistics.
Three Important Facts About The Race Control Tower
Capacity: 250 people
Weight: 25 tons
Time to assemble: 3 days
Facts are courtesy of Red Bull USA and the Red Bull Air Race