The second instalment of the very exciting speed Rally Grand Prix took place above the Witbank Airfield on 1 February 2020. The Grand Prix concept was hatched by Jonty Esser and his faithful team as a means of improving the spectator value at SAPFA events and hopefully draw in new blood.
The Grand Prix was designed to fast, close and extremely entertaining, competitors fly a figure of eight course laid out in the immediate vicinity of the airfield. The Crossover for this Grand Prix was right over the centre of the runway, the aircraft crossing the runway had to be above 700ft AGL and the aircraft running down the runway were below 500ft ensuring that a safe separation was maintained at all times.
Once the Speed Rally contestants had landed safely the Grand Prix contestants congregated in the briefing hangar where the starting procedures, race rules and landing procedures were outlined. Once the briefing was done and dusted it was time for the teams to make their way to their aircraft and get the final perp done.
Eight teams entered this GP with aircraft ranging from a Cherokee 140 to the Superfast Lancair even one helicopter, an Alouette III, was willing to give this new format a bash. The teams are setoff by the starter according to their handicap, starting from the slowest aircraft to the fastest, no separation time gaps are used which makes the start very interesting if two aircraft are very closely matched.
The First aircraft to get airborne was the team of Rob Ossner, Charles and Enzo Fuller in the ex SAAF Alouette III, followed almost immediately by Ivan and Jandre van der Schaar in their newly acquired Piper Cherokee 140 and Jonty and Johnathan Esser in the “Green Mamba” a 1960’s Cessna 150. Jonty and Jonathan however didn’t progress very far and had to return to the airfield as they were suffering from a power loss due to a “magdrop”. Jonty expertly landed the C150 on the taxiway while David Ross and James Braid were getting airborne in their Sling 2.
As the slower aircraft were completing their fist lap the faster guys were still waiting anxiously to get going Dane and Wade Lang were the next team to get airborne in their beautiful RV7A, they left slightly ahead of time as the long wait at the start line had caused their temps to rise a bit higher than was comfortable and a slight penalty was earned. Johan van Eerden and Gavin Edwards were right on their six also flying a RV7A.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity the Harvard of John Sayaers and Jack Coetzer took to the sky, with the growl that only a Radial can deliver. Soon after them the Lancair of Leon Joubert and Franz Smit raced down the runway and the race was on.
The Race route was laid out in such a way that the aircraft were never really out of sight and one could follow the changing of positions constantly. By the third lap the faster aircraft were closing on the slower teams, the local crowed loved the excitement helped along by the commentary of Race Master David le Roux. The finish went down to the wire with the two RV’s and the Harvard racing to the line in a real GP finish.
Photo Francois de Jager
After a quick check at the track of each aircraft Johan van Eerden and Gavin Edwards were crowned champions for this, the second, Speed Rally GP with John Sayaers and Jack Coetzer right behind them. Despite the penalty accrued Dane and Wade Lang manged to make the podium in third place.
Photo Willie Bodenstein
The GP teams are generally sponsored teams giving the sponsors an opportunity to brand the aircraft and thus get exposure at all the Races
Thanks to all the Team Sponsors
Johan van Eerden and Gavin Edwards - Vans RV7A – Fast Flame
Jack Coetzer and John Sayers - North American T6 Harvard – Kempton Park Flying Club
Dane and Wade Lang - Vans RV7A – SAPFA
Leon Joubert and Franz Smit - Lancair IV ES X – Prompt Roofing
Dave Ross and James Braid – TAF Sling 2 – Lick you Lips
Ivan and Jandre van der Schaar – Piper Cherokee 140 – Airshow South Africa
Charles and Enzo Fuller – Aerospatiale Alouette III – SAPFA
Jonty and Jonathan Esser – Cessna C150 – PilotInsure