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Each of the race's two legs includes:
- 1 Start Point
- 3 Mandatory Checkpoints
- 1 Bonus Checkpoint
- 1 Timing Point
- 1 Stop Point
The checkpoints, and therefore the course, change every year. Only the start (HWD), fuel stop (MIT) and end (IFP) points remain the same. The required and bonus checkpoints are announced the day before the race (see the race schedule) and documented in the race booklet provided to each team. The exact course flown is chosen by the pilot of each aircraft. Remember, this is not a speed race, it is a proficiency race; accuracy counts.
Checkpoints are to be overflown by race aircraft. Each checkpoint can be adequately identified from the air. The two timing points at Wasco and Checkpoint Bette are also overflown and race officials on the ground will record the time overhead the timing line.
The 1997 course is described here to provide an example only, the 1998 course will be different, and will not be announced until the day before the race during the briefings. 1997's course included the following checkpoints and stops:
- Hayward (HWD) - Race Starts
- Byron (C83) Bonus Checkpoint
- Los Banos (LSN)
- Chowchilla (2O6)
- Old Coalinga (CLG)
- Wasco (L19) - Timing Point
- Shafter-Minter (MIT) - Landing, Fuel and Lunch
- Sun Hill Ranch (L53)
- I-40 Freeway Intersection (34-43.4N, 115-40.7W)
- Town of Goffs (34-55.5N, 115-03.7W) Bonus Checkpoint
- Camino (34-49.5N, 114-57.5W)
- Checkpoint Bette (35-11.5N, 114-36.0W) - Timing Point
- Bullhead/Laughlin (IFP) - Landing, Fuel, Race Ends
Each checkpoint has a question to be answered to ensure positive identification. A typical checkpoint question looks like this:
The Chowchilla checkpoint looked like this from the air:
So, the answer was (E) Tanks.