Sling Racing

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While many of the region's favored sports - such as wegsphere, Shock-ball and Renithor racing - are popular, a repidly growing activity is the sport of Sling racing.

Introduced to Kumauri a decade ago, sling racing has recently emerged into the Caraadian cultural mainstream with the influx of media attention and high-priced sponsorships. Sling racers are lightweight air vehicles (like renithors) that are speedily maneuvered through dangerous, narrow mountain canyons. The vehicles have antigrav drive units, but much of the vehicle's speed and maneuverability comes from the independently adjustable wings and airfoils, which catch the treacherous winds that whip through the canyons.

Piloting a sling racer is no easy task - each drive unit is individually throttled to control speed while acting as a crude maneuvering jet; a pro sling racer can have as many as six small drive units.

The pilot must also adjust each wing separately to catch the cross currents. A skilled pilot can seemingly dance among the air currents, pushing his or her racer through incredible maneuvers. Rookie pilots tend to bust up a lot of equipment.

Sling racers are equipped with emergency maneuvering jets, but using them in competition disqualifies a racer. The racers are as light as possible - normally weighing a mere 200 kilograms or so - and are built from advanced ultralight metal alloys and ceramics. The sling racers offer very little protection, so they're equipped with ejection seats.

Professional sling racing is a demanding sport, requiring lightning reflexes and the ability to predict and respond to sudden wind currents. Just finishing a course is an accomplishment for a rookie pilot.

Wagering on the pro races only adds to the excitement, and winning a bet on a long-odds competitor can mean a big payoff since the top races can have over 100 entries.

Aspiring pilots can rent amateur sling racers for around 25 credits per hour. The courses open to amateurs are much wider and forgiving than the pro courses, although they are still quite challenging. Amateur sling racers are slower, more maneuverable (most have small maneuvering jets) and offer more protection than their professional counterparts, yet they fully capture the exhilaration and excitement of piloting a sling racer.