Wingsuit diving, a sport where daredevils leap off airplanes or mountains and fly at speeds exceeding 100mph with the help of just their birdman or squirrel suits, has been around in some form or shape since the 1930's. However, it is only recently thanks to stars like Jeb Corliss, that it has gained worldwide attention. Now with the announcement of the world's first Grand Prix, this extreme sport is finally going mainstream.
Organized by the newly formed World Wingsuit League, the event that will pit the world's finest fliers against one another, is scheduled to take place on the weekend of October 13th in China's Hunan Province.
Limited to 16 of the world's best wingsuit jumpers, it will require the contestants to launch off a 2,600-foot cliff top, fly around an anchored Red Bull hot-air balloon and then straight down the Tianmen mountain and under a tramway cable to the 'finish line'. Given that the entire course is just three-quarters of a mile long and that contestants will be zooming at rapid speeds, it is guaranteed to be an exciting event.
The rules of the world's first flying Grand Prix are very simple. All pilots will compete in the preliminary round - The fastest eight will then go on to the finals. Any jumper that takes off before the launch signal, fails to fly around the balloon or get to the finish line by flying over, instead of under the tram cable, will be disqualified.
However, keeping in perspective that all this is more difficult than it looks, they will each be allowed one error during any of the two rounds. The grand prize winner will take home $200,000 the runner up, $100,000 and the third place winner, $50,000 USD. There will also be a special trophy for the fastest flyer.
Among the roster of 14 men and 2 women all selected based on their experience, is world record holder Jeb Corliss, two-time Italian national skydiving champion, Roberta Mancina and Red Bull's skydiving team manager, Jon Devore.
While all the athletes are good, Jeb Corliss may have a slight edge - That's because just last year, he was in the same area performing an even more daring stunt - Flying through a narrow opening on the side of the Tianmen Mountain.
But no matter who wins, seeing what some call the 'fastest human beings without an engine' is bound to be thrilling - So be sure to add it to your calendar of things to watch that weekend, because fortunately, it is going to be televised live all over the world.
Resources: gizmag.com, worldwingsuitleague.com