Severe storms and flooding plagued Johannesburg, and surrounding areas during the month of April. The organizers and pilots alike, kept a close eye on the predictions for the upcoming Aerial Concepts Combined Power Nationals in April of 2019.
Desperately hoping for a better weather and no rain as the days went by, reports of good weather started rolling in, cloudy skies, moderate wind… A few days went by, the forecast now clear skies, moderate wind. When finally, in the week leading up to the Nationals, the forecast changed to clear skies, and low to no wind.
The Organizers were hard at work setting up the various courses for all the different disciplines. Ranging from FPV Drone Racing, Large Scale Aerobatics, Precision Aerobatics, Scale & Jets and of course Pylon Racing. There’s a buzz of activity not only in the skies above, but on both flight lines, and pilots were lining up for those crucial last-minute flights and setup changes.
It is finally time for the Nationals, all that hard work, hours of testing, weeks spent building, tweaking, and adjusting. It’s all built up to this moment, and there is no turning back now.
It’s time to race!
Officials and Judges checked all aircraft for basic safety, as well as fuel cut off systems, and radio fail safe systems. Nervous and anxious competitors gathered around while briefed about safety and no fly zones, once completed each pilot was issued with a “2019 Nationals Approved” sticker to be placed on all aircraft participating in national event for Pylon Racing.
In less than two hours the lights will go out, and three or four aircraft will take to the skies and scream towards turn one!
Three, two, one, “On The clock” as our Timing Judges and Start Official Renier Venter synchronize the timing lights. The pilots on the line, now have 60 seconds to start their engines and set those needles for optimum RPM.
It is often said “If all goes well, this is the longest sixty seconds of your life, but if your glow plug is dead, this will be the fastest sixty seconds, you have ever experienced!”
Five seconds left, and the lights go on!
Red away! Blue away! Yellow away! Each aircraft now safely airborne and screaming at maximum rpm and decibels towards pylon one!
“Turn!” and “Pull!”
As the callers’ shout out loud to indicate to their pilots that they must turn around and make their way to pylon two and three. With blistering speeds, the aircraft maintain their attitude, flying on knife edge, like they are fixed on rails! Speeds in excess of 300Km/h are achieved, as our pilots complete ten laps before receiving a solid light to indicate that the race is over.
Adrenaline levels are spiked, the all so common shakes are in full swing and pilots talking and jabbering with heightened excitement about the races!
This is Pylon Racing! The Adrenaline filled, Fast paced, action packed sport, anyone can do against friends and family!
With four days of competing, our pilots were treated to the best weather we have had in a long time, calm conditions, and an excellent venue. With virtually no time constraints while competing.
Records were bound to be broken and from the onset they were. On day one, the Q40 pilots competed, and times started breaching the seventy second marker. Each round going faster and faster and 70 seconds, 69 seconds, until it happened! 68.49 seconds, a new South African Record.
Yes folks, we had our first official record for the nationals in 2019.
Congratulations to pilot: Wayne Willcox, and caller: Johnathan Willcox. The father, son duo, recently embarked on travelling to various events around the world, and the exposure, experience and knowledge is now paying off, not to mention the hard work and practice that this team puts in! Once again Congratulations, this is well deserved. At the end of the day our overall winner for Q40 was Wayne Willcox, followed by Trevor Budd in second place, and Patrick O’Donovan finishing in third.
Pilots and callers were treated to a wonderful banquet with fantastic food prepared by the organizers Marius and Family from Henley. With Q40 completed, and the evenings activities rounded up, it was time to prepare for the next day’s racing.
The biggest class for the Nationals this year, marked a milestone for the Pylon Committee. Plans that were set in motion almost two years earlier are now paying off, with most of our then Sportsman Pilots progressing to the highly competitive and extremely fun class known as Standard Quickies. Good news indeed, indicating that there is a good amount of growth in our sport. A huge thank you to everyone who makes this possible, Thanks to Oom Boet from “Jets R Us”, making it possible for us to get a hold of locally produced aircraft without having to import or break the bank.
Racing was intense, and again the conditions favoured the fast. Yet again we saw our pilots flying faster round after round, with most pilots breaking the 100 second barrier. Unbelievable, yet another record is broken. The Previous recorded record was held by Eben Muller set back in 2018 with a time of 96.93. This was shattered by pilot Trevor Budd and Caller Russell vd Westhuizen with a time of 95.26. Well done guys, you flew like champions. Trevor flew like a bat out of hell, all day long, and ended up taking top honours for the day, closely followed by Russell vd Westhuizen in seconds place, while third place went to Patrick O’Donovan. Congratulations!
With records being broken on each day, the pressure was on for our Sportsman pilots to rise to the occasion. Close racing and fierce competition were the order of the day, with times getting faster and faster after lunch time. (there must be something in those delicious burgers) Yet again, a super-fast time from Martin Venter, the previous record holder. And it is official, another record tumbles. With all the records tumbling so far, we advise each reader to wear a protective helmet to ensure your safety while reading this article.
Congratulations to our Sportsman pilot, and new record holder Martin Venter with a time of 123.27. Martin was the overall winner in the Sportsman class, in second place we had Sarel Venter all the way from LOMAC, followed closely by third place pilot Neil Dawson. Congratulations guys, it was so much fun to see your everyday flyers, tearing it up around the course!
Sportsman Pilot & Daredevil, David Potgieter took things to the extreme, when leaving skid marks on the flag at Pylon 2. Pure skill at work, luckily both plane and flags are OK, and the stick is said to have flows a tad faster after this freak incident.
Being our second fastest class of all, pilots were eager to challenge for fastest times. The pressure was on to break another record, and from the onset the times were close.
Judges poised, with fingers on the ready!
The gusty conditions made it trickier than the previous couple of days, with some pilots being caught out with the sudden headwind, resulting in some heart-breaking cuts on pylon one. Conditions soon turned for the better and the pilots started challenging that golden goose of a record, when finally, it happened again! Four Records set at the Nationals! What a great achievement! This time it was pilot Russell vd Westhuizen, and caller Trevor Budd, who broke the record and set the bar for things to come, Russel flew an astonishing 77.10 seconds, Well Done Russell, the Terrible twins were at it again!
Congratulations to all the winners and runner ups, you truly deserve this. I would also personally thank all our pilots, and callers who attended and competed in this great event. I really hope you guys enjoyed every moment of it!
A Huge thank you to the Organizers, SAMAA, SAMPRA, Marius and family from Henley Model Airfield and Family Entertainment, a special thanks to the ladies running the kitchen, the food was amazing.
Special thanks to our helpers and officials Renier Venter, Stefan Coetzer, Johan Blom, Jasper van Eden, Donald Dold, JP Richardson, without you we would not have been able to achieve what we have, during this event! Thanks to all our competitors, and spectators, as well as the Families who supported us during the Aerial Concepts Combined Power Nationals 2019.
Sadly, it was time to pack up, and make our way home. We said our goodbyes to friends, new and old.
Until then ......Go Fast and Turn Left!!