Red rags and Red Bull

What stirs air racers’ thoughts at 250mph? Laundry, apparently

Heading the latest issue of the FJ Newsletter, which Duncan Rabagliati handed me at Race Retro, I was interested to see that the club is responding to a perceived decline in driving standards in historic racing. Not FJ people, the mag hastens to point out, but to preserve the club’s friendly atmosphere the management has decided to take action before anything unpleasant happens.

It has appointed Bob Birrell as a driving standards observer, who will investigate any car contact and has “appropriate sanctions” up his sleeve. Sad that this has to happen – but certainly better to watch for the spark than beat down flames later. Some historic racing has become so serious you’d think there was a world title at stake.

In the same issue, FJ racer Steve Jones talks about his other life as a 747 captain and aerobatic flyer. One of the Red Bull Matadors, he does terrifying things in air races when not flying Spitfires and Mustangs. His display oppo is double Red Bull champion Paul Bonhomme, whom I sat beside at the Segrave awards (he won the 2009 trophy). We discussed the split-second decisions that go with roof-level 12g dicing at 250mph and I asked about the mental strain of thinking so fast with disaster only a hiccup away. “It becomes second nature,” said Paul. “In my last race I was lining up for the next air gate and caught myself thinking, ‘Did I collect my laundry from the hotel?’”

Now that’s cool.