After the huge success that the Speed Rally concept has enjoyed over the past year Jonty Esser and Rob Jonkers decided to expand the concept and make the rallies more spectator friendly by introducing a high paced “up close and personal” variation on the speed rally. The Grand Prix series will also be used to fill the gap between the last landing and the release of the results.
The entrants in the Grand Prix series are chosen to take part making it a rather elite, pilots must have formation flying experience as there is a lot of passing involved especially for the faster aircraft. Essentially the format remains the same as for the Speed Rallies with the slower aircraft taking off first and the fastest last. The aim is that if every team fly’s according to their handicap they will all cross finish at the simultaneously.
Three laps of a 20nm circuit are flown, the “track“ is a 0.8 nm wide corridor and if a pilot strays outside the corridor they will have to close their throttle for 15 seconds and then resume full speed again. All aircraft are live tracked and penalties are given by radio and must be adhered to immediately. The start and finish of each lap is overhead the runway making the race very exciting for spectators watching from the ground as at the end of each lap one can see how much time the faster aircraft have made up on the aircraft ahead of them.
As with Formula 1 car racing the line taken around the many corners is vital to flying a good time, sticking to the inside of the track will ensure the shortest route flown. The handicap speed is based on the centre of the track so if the course is well flown competitors may well break their handicap speed.
Soon after the last Speed Rally entrants landed and handed in their loggers the Grand Prix briefing got underway, for this the first Grand Prix only seven teams were invited to take part, hopefully this number will increase in future as the teams and organisers asses what would be a safe number.
Then it was time to get to their aircraft, full F1 fanfare was arranged with bikini clad girls with umbrellas escorting each team to their awaiting aircraft. The F! girls were sponsored by to Adelaar BlueStar and Sapphirus BlueStar from Sanlam Financial Advisory Services.
Team No 1 PilotInsure
Jonty and Jonathan Esser in a Cessna 150
Team No 2 Prompt Roofing
Leon Joubert and Sandi Goddard in a Lancair ES
Team No 3 Lick you Lips
David Ross and James Braid in a TAF Sling 2
Team No 4 Fast Flame
Johan van Eeden and Cor Esterhuizen in a Vans RV7A
Team No 5 Airshow South Africa
Ivan and Jandre van der Schaar in a Pitts Special
Team No 6 SAPFA
Eric Addison and Antoinette Addison in a Vans RV7A
Team No 7 Sports Aerobatic Club of South Africa
Nigel Hopkins and Mary de Klerk in a Vans RV8
It was now time for the teams to make their way to the starting grid, team no 1 had a bit of difficulty getting the “Green Mamba” started but after a quick hand-swing she was good to go. Jacques Jacobs, the official starter, released each team at the allocated time with the slower aircraft getting what seemed to be a massive head start on the faster teams, this proved to not be the case once the faster guys got airborne.
After three exciting laps, expertly commentated by David le Roux from PilotInsure, Jonty and Jonathan manged to keep all the faster guys at bay crossing the finish line in the lead. Nigel and Mary came in second followed very closely by Johan and Cor in third place.
After the winners were marshalled to the winner’s area it was time to take up their positions on the podium, in true F1 style, and what would a Grand Prix podium be without Champagne being sprayed all over the place.
Well done to the SAPFA team for putting together such a wonderful event, a big thank you must go to all the members of Sport Aerobatics Club for coming out in their numbers to support this event and of course to Nigel Hopkins and Jason Beamish for the wonderful aerobatics display after the Grand Prix.