Sunday was the day of the final of the Red Bull air race and I and some of my friends had tickets, so off we went. After seeing the practice session last Friday I was really looking forward to it, even more than I was already.
So how was it?
Well I thought it was great!
We were up in the grandstands on the O2 side of the river, the view was great and we weren't too squished either. One minor complaint was that we couldn't see the start (which was also the end) gate. However we were right in front of a particularly tricky, and therefore interesting, section of the course so in all honesty I wouldn't have moved if offered a view of the missing gate.
There were a pair of commentators, a Brit and an American. The Brit was an idiot, a snow boarding "dude" who didn't really seem to know much of what was going on. I think the biggest contribution to the day he made was pointing out that pilots are the opposite of bananas. He also used the word "uber" to describe some attribute of the planes involved, speed I think, and that's a "cool dude"/geek type of phrase that for some reason irritates me. His American companion knew what he was talking about but was far more laid back, some might say dull. All things told though when you were getting into the final heats and it was getting rather tense and exciting they did seem to get into the swing of things, or maybe we were so into it that we were prepared to overlook their short comings.
The racing itself was great and we went from knowing nothing about how it worked at all to being able to spot when the planes were close or actually did pick up a penalty for doing something wrong. We also got to recognise some of the different flying styles of the main pilots, which is nice to do.
In the end the final was between a Brit, Paul Bonhomme, and an American, Mike Mangold. It really was pretty tense and we were getting really rather into it. Bonhomme managed a time that was on the fast side of average but not as quick as the fastest times of the day. Mangold then pipped him by a second.
Anyway as said we were getting really rather excited and involved. We could tell that Bonhomme's run wasn't a great run and Mangold was aggressively pushing himself. Those last dozen seconds watching Mangold and the timer count up were fantastic.
I'm really not into sports, I don't follow or watch anything. So I guess this was my first real sporting event and I loved it and felt like I understood it.
So great stuff!
I've heard some complaints about the day. One of those was about the price, £20 for a standing ticket. We paid £50 to have a seat in the Grandstand. The standing tickets were about 2/3 the price of what I paid for a standing ticket at an air show a couple of weeks ago and there were no transport hassles like I had for that. We were happy to pay the extra chunk for a seat as one of our number wasn't a huge plan fan and didn't want to be on her feet all day long. The seat gave me the best view I've ever had at an airshow and really let me get into the race. It's also what I paid for a gig that lasted less than two hours at the O2 a few weeks ago. I think that it was pretty good value, so did my friends, we all really enjoyed the day.
Aside from the race we also had some helicopters putting on a demonstration and doing some very impressive things. If you've not picked it up I'm a bit of a plane fan and what they were doing really was rather good. Maybe it would have meant less to someone else though.
We also had the Red Devils parachute team jumping and landing in the Thames, brief but still rather good.
At the end of the racing and after waiting ten or so minutes for the crowds to die down we had an easy exit from the racing area and strolled down to the Pilot Inn. We then had a few very pleasant hours with some beers in the sunshine, a very nice end to the race.
So we all had a great day and were very happy with what we go for our money. We'd certainly do it again if it were to come back to the Thames.
I've got a few more photos that I'll post up. I didn't take any of the planes racing as I had some of those from Friday and my friend had a proper camera with a decent zoom lens.