Secunda Flying Club hosted the first ever Speed Rally on Saturday 6 October and judging by the enthusiasm it was definitely a winning recipe. The new format came about after the continuous dwindling numbers at larger races like the Presidents Trophy Air Race (PTAR), and the general feeling is that the handicap system used was not a fair reflection of the actual performance of the aircraft.
The Speed Rally concept brought everything back to basics with a very simple format of test flying each aircraft the day before the rally. Test flights are by designated test pilots, the aircraft will be taken to the specific density Altitude and then flown flat out for 5 min then making a 90° turn, then flat out again for 5 min followed by another 90° turn, flat out again for 5 min then which should bring them close to the starting point. All flights are logged and the handicap is then worked out on the speed of the test circuit.
It was decided to limit the rally to thirty entries for this inaugural rally, but larger fields will be planned for the future. Twenty three teams decided to take up the challenge in Secunda and speaking to all the participants after the rally I predict the next instalment to be a full house, everyone thoroughly enjoyed the new twist to the sport of rally flying.
The morning started off with a scrumptious breakfast supplied by the Secunda Flying Club followed by a briefing for all pilots and navigators. Rob Jonkers (SAPFA Chairman) explained the rules and gave a general overview of what the participants could expect on the course. Hans Potgieter explained how the starting grid would work complete with starting lights. After a short address by the “father “ of the concept Jonty Esser it was time to get to the aircraft, stick on race numbers and do final checks.
The aircraft were ordered for take-off according to their handicaps from slowest to fastest, and were staggered so they would all reach the finish at the same time, if they fly according to their handicap and keep on the route. The first aircraft to get airborne was the Savanah crewed by Johann van Niekerk and Hardie Voges, The start was very exciting with aircraft taking off exactly on time to keep in the running.
After the initial take-off there was a steady stream of aircraft for almost an hour taking off to the west to start their route. The route is only issued to the teams 20 min before take-off so there isn’t much time for plotting as in that time the aircraft have to make their way to the starting area as well. This short space of time makes it almost impossible to plot the route on a GPS as there are no Longitudes or latitudes marked on the map.
Nigel Musgrave kept an keen eye on all proceedings Nigel was responsible for the safety of the event and as always he did a sterling job.
After the last aircraft took to the air the crowd were treated to a display by the Cows Pitts special aerobatics team who were in Secunda to celebrate the Umuzi Spring festival.
In future Rally’s a big screen will be erected for live tracking and this will bring the live excitement to the spectators that are normally excluded from the action as no-one knows what is going on while the teams are out on the course. Hopefully this will make the sport more appealing to the public and this could lead to more sponsorship which in-turn will grow the sport of rally flying. Some pilots fly much better tracks than others and this all influences the final result.
The finish gets very exciting as all the participants cross the finish line in a very short space of time. All of these changes are made to make the sport more appealing to the average weekend flyer. After a break for lunch, in which the judges download and process the results, everyone made their way to the briefing hangar for the announcement of the final results and prize giving.
Secunda Flying Club was awarded a trophy for hosting the first “Speed Rally”, trophies like this will be given to ever host club in the future.
The team of Bob Cohoe and Gerda Pienaar were adjudge to have displayed thebest airmanship on the day, they took part in a Citabria.
Taking part in their first Rally of any kind Jandre Kasselman and Riaan Starbuck were adjudged the best performing newcomers in their Cessna 182.
Leon le Roux and Johan Botha flying in a Sling 2 were given a prize for displaying copious amounts of team spirt
The prize for the Slowest Route “Winners” was awarded to Race No.9, Johann van Niekerk and Hardie Voges, granted they were flying in a Savanah which is definitely not known for its speed.
Race No. “lucky” 13 of Gregory Cinquin and Muhammed managed to fly the longest route and still finish in their Piper Cherokee.
David Ross and James Braid in a TAF Sling 2 managed to fly the second in the shortest penalty free route
Third place for the Fastest penalty free route belonged to Race No. 8 Johannes Jurie and Cor Esterhuizen in their Vans RV7A
The Father and Son team of Jonty and Jonathan Esser came in with the Second fastest penalty free route, Jonathan was definitely the youngest contestant he recently turned fifteen, have youngsters getting involved votes very well for the future of the sport.
The overall winner in both the Fastest and Shortest routes was the team of Phil Wakely and Mary de Klerk in a Cessna 210, Phil and Mary flew an almost flawless route. Well done guys!!!!
The next Speed Rally is planned for late in November and will be held at Springs Airfield, after the success of the first Speed Rally the organisers have decided to create a championship decided on points achieved at all the rallies throughout the year. The standings after the first rally are as follows:
After the formalities were done the friendly Secunda Flying Club treated everyone to a spit braai at the clubhouse, ending a perfect day of good fun and good competition. I am definitely looking forward to the next leg of this exciting brand of sport flying.
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