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Red Bull Air Race World Championship set to test daredevil dozen.

Abu Dhabi: Be ready to be blown away by tiny, high-performance planes as the Red Bull Air Race World Championship returns to the UAE on Friday.

Some of the world's best daredevil pilots will zoom through the obstacle course of pylons against the clock at speeds of up to 370 km/h just 50-80 feet above the sparking blue waters around the spectacular skyline of the Abu Dhabi Corniche.

The event was established in 2003 and is an international series of air races, starting in Abu Dhabi and ending in Las Vegas in October.

It's being held for the first time since 2010 following a break to focus on safety improvements and involves eight venues across the world, including Croatia, Great Britain and China.

In terms of the action on Friday, the Master Class qualifying action starts at 2.20pm followed by the Challenger Cup Race at 3.45pm.

Reigning world champion Paul Bonhomme, of Great Britain, has always been a fierce and formidable competitor and he will be keen to make his mark straight away in the first of the eight race series starting here.

Bonhomme's main rival will be veteran Peter Besenyei, who is well-versed in the conditions here as he is making his seventh appearance in the event.

Austrian Hannes Arch, having finished runner-up in 2010, will also be keen to take off on a high.

Bonhomme's compatriot Nigel Lamb is also one to keep a close watch on.

In all, 12 pilots are competing in the Master Class qualifying round to determine the positions and then the eight fastest will vie for the top-four spot on Saturday ahead of the finals later.

Based on the pilot's place at each race, World Championship points are awarded. The first place finisher receives 12 points, second place ten, while 11th gets one.

"I won't like to say that I'm still the reigning champion as we are starting all over again. I will consider myself as a pilot who has to prove himself again. However, I'm keen to defend my title," said Bonhomme, who claimed victory twice in Abu Dhabi in 2008 and 2010.

Lamb, along with other competitors Kirby Chambliss and Michael Goulian, also tuned up for the first race with some breath-taking manoeuvres over some of the iconic sights of the capital.

"The Formula One track looks amazing and the Grand Mosque is so spectacular. We tried to create some dynamic racing in front of these iconic locations," said Lamb.

This year will also feature the Challenger Cup, which provides a perfect platform for eight chosen pilots from seven countries to hone their low-altitude flying skills and the opportunity to graduate into the Master Class.

"Yes, this is something that I was waiting for for a long time. It will be a big boost for me and I'm very much looking forward to it. The city looks beautiful with a perfect waterfront and it will be good to get a positive result and make an impression," said 26-year-old Frenchman, Mikael Brageot.

For the spectators, the organisers have also roped in Arab superstars Nancy Ajram and Ramy Ayach for a concert on Friday.

The Lebanese singing stars will be joined by Egyptian pop rockers Wust El Balad. At the Adrenaline Zone at Corniche, Drift King Abdo Feghali, Stunt Bike Rider Shadi Al Daheri, Spanish flatlands biker Viki Gomez, and Romanian trial biker Robert Kovacs will also make a number of appearances.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Feb 28, 2014
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