Salzburg (Austria)With less than one month to go before the season opener, officials for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship have revealed a revised race format. As compared to 2015, the new format focuses even more on time, putting heightened emphasis on the skills of the pilots and their teams. In a sport where the placement can hinge on thousandths of a second, this could be the most thrilling season yet.

The overall Race Day structure remains the same: With a starting order based on Qualifying, the entire lineup – 14 of the world’s best pilots – competes in head-to-head elimination heats in the Round of 14. The winner of each heat advances, plus the round’s fastest loser.

Next up are more elimination pairings in the Round of 8, and that’s where the key change comes in. Beginning in 2016, the eight pilots will be reseeded based on their Round of 14 timings. The fastest pilot from the Round of 14 will race against the eighth-fastest, the second-fastest will face the seventh-fastest, and so on. The winner of each heat advances to the Final 4.

Another change is that in those head-to-head pairings, in the rare instance when both pilots fail to score a valid time, neither pilot will move on to the subsequent round. Advancing instead will be a second “fastest loser”: the next pilot in line based on the times recorded among all those who lost their heats.

“We continually review our operations and format and strive to improve competitiveness and fairness. We had two scenarios in 2015 where we had the same pairing in the Round of 14 and Round of 8. So, we changed the order of the Round of 8 to be directly related to the time that each pilot posted in his Round of 14,” explains Race Director Jim DiMatteo. “We all feel this order is more fair to the pilots and improves the competition for any given location, ultimately resulting in an even more exciting race.”

“I think the new race format is much more fair, because it supports those putting effort in all rounds before the final,” says Hannes Arch of Austria, who has stood on the overall podium the past five consecutive seasons, including a World Championship title in 2008. Arch and the rest of the pilots will get their first chance to race in the new format when the high-speed, low-altitude action kicks off at the season opener in Abu Dhabi on 11-12 March 2016.

It’s time to grab a seat: Tickets for most races of the 2016 Red Bull Air Race World Championship are on sale now. For more information on tickets and all the latest, including details on the race format and rules, visit www.redbullairrace.com