NASCAR's Brian Vickers and ex-Formula One driver David Coulthard dropped by to see Hannes Arch on Thursday ahead of the Red Bull Air Race in New York, and spent an hour in the Austrian's hangar comparing notes on the similarities and differences of their motorsports.
Vickers, the 2003 Nationwide Series champion, and Coulthard both expressed their admiration for the special three-dimensional challenges that Arch and his 14 Red Bull Air Race rivals have to master while racing at speeds of up to 230mph at forces of up to 12G through a turn-filled track of air gates. They were also intrigued by the insatiable technology drive that has propelled the teams to come up with new ways to get through the high-speed, low-altitude track with greater speed and efficiency.
“It’s very exciting for me to have two top motorsport athletes come to see me in my hangar,” said Arch, the 2008 champion, who has won three straight races in the current season. “We’re talking about a lot of the same stuff, about RPMs, about speed and about similar experiences we’ve had and sharing them. I’m really interested in the details of Formula One and NASCAR. I’m trying to learn from them.”
Vickers, now in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, said he has a lot of respect for what Arch and his rivals do in the air. “That third dimension just changes everything,” Vickers said. “In a [NASCAR] race course, it’s just another turn. These guys have to think completely differently, especially considering how low they are. They have so little room between the pylons and what they do.”
Vickers said he enjoyed a ride in a two-seat race plane once but was glad when it was over. “When I was in a full turn I just wanted to think about not passing out. I wasn’t thinking about where I was flying to.”
"Hannes Arch has got balls of carbon fiber." –David Coulthard
Coulthard, who went on a ride in a two-seat plane alongside Arch in his plane before the Abu Dhabi race last year, said he was intrigued at how complex the Red Bull Air Race is compared to Formula One.
“The impressive thing for me is trying to imagine to be at such speed so close to the ground and trying to do the gates and have that spatial awareness,” said Coulthard, who won 13 Formula One grands prix in almost 250 starts. “When I drive a racing car I’m just looking at the elements: braking point, apex and exit point, and the rest just blurs for me. I don’t need to focus on those other points. I’m just focused on the track in front. I think our sport is a lot simpler.”
“The fun thing for just the three of us here is to talk about the technology,” he added. “There are many parallels between Red Bull Air Race, what Brian does in NASCAR and what I do now in DTM and what I used to do in Formula One. It’s all about performance. It’s man and machine trying to create that performance, which is the interesting part because we need to develop technology and use that technology to get the best out of ourselves.”
Arch’s heavy pylon hit in Windsor had a particular significance for the former F1 driver. Coulthard said he was impressed by Arch’s ability to bounce back so strongly. “The aircraft is made up of all sorts of trick composites and so are his testicles. He’s got balls of carbon fiber,” Coulthard said with a smile.