Cold short days, long nights, misty mornings and High RPM’s. Yes, fellow pilots and enthusiasts, it is Pylon Racing time! With winter testing done and all the preparations complete, it is time for our pilots to leave the familiar playing fields of Johannesburg and head on over to a new kind of battlefield. The kind where the air feels like soup, where my plane glides forever, where the days are 28 degrees Celsius, in July!
What is this madness?
Madness? This is not Madness, this is Nelspruit!
For the first time in SAMPRA’s history, are we travelling to the Low-veld to host a pylon racing event, and boy was this an event of note! On Friday 29 July, the Johannesburg members made the trip via the N12 to the eastern parts of South Africa.
Through the coal mines, the wide-open fields, through the mountain passes, to the green tree filled forests, and finally, the colourful fruit and nut farms of Nelspruit. Fresh air, warm days, and the best hospitality one can get!
Upon arrival at Doornhoek RC, we were greeted with smiles and excited faces. A hangar filled with planes one can only dream of. A picturesque back drop of beautiful trees on a mountain side, and a runway smack in the middle of it all.
The committee took no time in setting up the course as help was plentiful and eager hands made for easy work. A huge thank you to Johan Roets, the owner of Doornhoek RC and his men who helped us. Never have we been treated with such hospitality and friendliness! The facilities are top notch! And within no time could we do some practice flights before the end of the day.
Race day, 20 July 2019
At the crack of dawn our members were already busy with assembly and pre-flight checks, doing some last minute tweaks, and quick test flights.
The early echoes of howling engines in the valley is something to experience!
Pilots briefing was called to order, and the pilots were briefed on safety and regulations for the day.
With our Judges and timekeepers in place it was finally time to start racing.
First up, was a round of FPV Electric, as well as a round of Electric Pylon racing. Still being in the development stages the boys quickly got on to form and started nailing the course. Clocking in times that will shortly surpass sportsman and rival standard quickie times. With newly elected Committee member Mike Nicholls heading up our Electric Racing Portfolio. We are sure to see a ‘Surge’ of entries and growth in these classes.
At the end of the day Mike Nicholls took top honours, followed shortly by newcomer Charl van Vuuren in the FPV racing.
The constant change in wind direction made for some exciting take-off manoeuvres, none the less the guys had some solid races.
In our first official Line of sight racing for electric pylon racing, Mike again showed the guys the backend of his plane, taking top honours overall, followed by Charl van Vuuren in second, and Rob Goudie closing the field with his spectacular mini stick! If there was a prize for the pilot having the most fun it would go to Rob Goudie, as we dubbed his plane the Giggle Stick!
Well-done guys, conditions were not ideal with the gusting winds, however you made it work and had some good fun while doing it! I for one will be joining you guys at the next event!
Next up was Russel vd Westhuizen and Matthys Botha, in F3T also known as Q40’s. A difficult day for both pilots, with lots of dead sticks, no starts, and broken props on take-off. Eventually Matthys’s Q40 decided to give in on the last round with a mechanical issue seeing him retiring and Russel taking first place having put in the best rounds of the day. Congratulations Russel!
Sportsman, the biggest field of the day, with 7 pilots in total, newcomers and some familiar faces. By now the weather was much better, with the winds calming down slightly, giving our pilots the chance to master what they have seen and learnt in such a short space of time.
Father and Son team Pieter and Werner Rabie taking on the challenge and boy did they quickly get into the swing of things, with the shakes out the way, these two pilots starting shaving 10’s of seconds from their round times. Werner Being our youngest pilot in Pylon Racing South Africa. It was such a brilliant sight to see this Father and Son Duo duking it out for top spot! But in the end, the youth prevailed, and Werner managed to pip his father with 6 seconds on his overall time.
Some pilots not so lucky, with Gerhard Brand losing his landing gear in the first round and unable to repair the plane. meant he was on the side-line for the rest of the day, unfortunate indeed, but a birdie told me that we will see him back at the next races! In sixth place we had Pieter, trailing his son Werner in fifth place. Next in line we had another newcomer Johan Beukes Jnr, who flew some impressive rounds, trailing the LOMAC guys by mere seconds.
The top three pilots were split across four seconds in the overall rankings, making for some of the closes racing we have seen yet.
In third place we had Alec Groenewald, with a total time of 543.08, second place was awarded to Sarel Venter with Bumble Bee, and a time of 541.23. First Place was awarded to 1 Second Barry vd Vyver who flew 539.11 seconds in total, congratulations guys! It was and epic battle with some close calls, and good racing!
Sportsman having fun as always!
Six entries in Standards, three pilots from LOMAC, and three from RMAC. The battle lines were drawn, and it was time for the showdown of the day!
The winds were up to their old shenanigans again, but our pilots weren’t bothered by this, it was like flying 35Mhz with lots of glitching and interference, as the turbulent air jittered some planes as they screamed their way to pylon one.
In the first round all three RMAC pilots managed to accumulate cuts, with Sarel Venter taking the lead, unfortunately fellow LOMAC Pilots had issues starting, however this changed as the day went on. 2nd round and RMAC now struggling to start, this now levelling the playing fields between the pilots. Round three, and again Russel having issues with his motor, resulting in a dead stick. Close racing all around, saw Steven black rising through the ranks putting in three solid rounds followed closely by Sarel Venter.
Round four, Red takes off, Then Blue, and finally Yellow, all three planes screaming towards pylon one. Pilots eagerly awaiting the signal from their callers! Pull! Pull! Pull!
And then disaster!
A loud bang echoed through the valley, and then silence…
With only one plane now doing the laps instead of three. We had a Mid-air collision, Tragic News! Two planes retiring for good, a sad moment as the two leaders have collided. Pilots Sarel Venter and Steven Black, unable to occupy the same air space were out, opening the door for the rest of the field.
In sixth place, having loads of engine issues and dead sticks all round we had Russel vd Westhuizen, not a good day for him, however, he will be ready for the next one. In fifth place we had Alec Groenewald, who also had some engine gremlins. In fourth place was Sarel Venter, and Steven Black in third place overall. It would have been close in the end had these two pilots made it all the way. In second place we had Barry Vd Vyver with some solid flying, proving that consistence is key. Overall winner is Matthys Botha, who despite having motor issues in the beginning clawed his way back and finishing the day on top.
Once the racing was completed, everyone jumped in to help pack, and clean, and get the facility ready for the Braai, and prize giving. With braai fires and BOMA’s lit, our members, friends and families gathered for a feast of note.
A Special thanks to New Nation Construction, who generously donated prize money to the winners! This is a huge prize and incentive for our pilots, and we really appreciate them being part of this wonderful event. We would also like to thank Johan Roets, and the Doornhoek RC members for allowing us to use their facilities, the field and hospitality was second to none! A big thank you to the LOMAC members who helped in setting up this event. A Special Thanks to Jasper, Donald and Johan who drove all the way to come and be our Timekeepers and Judges for the day! We really appreciate it! I would also like to thank all our members, pilots, and organisers who helped on the day!
And so, our journey ended, a spectacular day of racing, making new friends, and getting together with old friends. This was an event to remember, and one we will surely do in future. The SAMPRA team already visited the LOMAC field as a possible venue for future events, and the outcome looks promising. So, clear your calendars, and save the dates, as winter racing will from now one be in warmer climates.
Our Judges, and Families! without them, we cannot race like we do!
All in all, the weekend was a huge success, and we hope that everyone who attended truly enjoyed the racing and making history in the Lowveld! Our next event will be at the end of August, at RMAC.
We hope to see you all there and as always,
Go Fast, Turn Left