Red Bull’s Rodeo

Take two parts aerobatic skill, add daring, throw in obstacles and speed: Air racing’s got a brand-new bag.

On Reno's hallowed ground, Red Bull deployed dashing new racers and elegant graphics. (Caroline Sheen)
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The tension in the stands rose as it came down to the final two, the presumed champion versus the unexpected challenger. Chambliss greased the course. Despite a five-second penalty for the touch-and-go, he managed 1:59 even.

But Mangold stuck to his line. He worked through the final turns in less than 30 seconds, and fans in the crowd who weren't standing were on the edge of their seats. His time was rapidly approaching Chambliss' when Mangold dove to the final gate.

When he pulled up, it was into a victory tumble that put an exclamation point on a remarkable win. His time: 1:54.84.

In 2005 the Red Bull World Cup is expanding: Ireland and the United Arab Emirates have signed on; Moscow is pending. In the United States, Reno will not host the race, but San Francisco and Miami will. At each site, there is sure to be a party like the one held on the top floor of the Golden Peacock hotel on the Saturday night of Reno's 2004 race weekend.

On one end of the penthouse, away from the flashing lights and throbbing techno of the dance floor, a big screen ran video of extreme sports: vertical skiers, base jumpers, gravity gamers with bikes and snowboards and parafoils, and the aerobatic virtuosos of the air races. The worldwide scope of the Red Bull investment and its energy message flashed powerfully in the thrills on the screen. There wasn't a checkerboard pylon in the place and no sign of a Mustang or Bearcat. There was just this screenful of Red Bull logos on young athletes executing daring stunts and flying into a future full of challenge and fun. Had airshow celebrity Bob Hoover and Reno racing legend Darryl Greenamyer elbowed their way to the bar to order a scotch, no one at the party would have had the faintest idea who they were.

Originally published in Air & Space/Smithsonian, April/May 2005 . All rights reserved.

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