Speed Rally events have grown exponentially since there inception in Secunda in October 2018, It is widely believed that this format may be the fastest growing sport aviation discipline in the world and the and the final goal is to get the format recognised on the world stage.
On Friday and Saturday, 28,29 November the season finale for the extremely disrupted 2020 season took place at Springs Airfield hosted by the East Rand Flying Club. The future of Speed Rallying as we know it was in jeopardy when the previous main sponsor withdrew due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, fortunately, Andrew Lester the owner of Aircraft Unlimited stepped up to the plate and offered to sponsor this event as well as the entire 2021 Season.
The normal Speed Rally takes place over two days the first being a day set aside for speed testing aircraft and from these speed tests conducted by Mark Clulow and Sean Cronin. From the results of the test flights, the handicaps are meticulously calculated by the husband and wife team of Dirk and Louna De Vos, their dedication to accurately handicap each participating aircraft is a large part of the success of the format.
Once the Test Flights are done all the participants are invited to a “Briefing on Steroids” on the evening before the race where the race numbers are handed out after Race Director Rob Jonkers explained what can be expected for the next day in terms of the planned route, how many turn-points, distance, departure and arrivals protocol, and also how the scoring system worked in terms of penalties as well as the expected weather conditions.
On Saturday morning the weather looked as if it may ruin everyone’s plans with low cloud and rain in the area, some of the competitors had to withdraw as they were stuck at manned airfields that were declared IMC. The low cloud was predicted to lift later in the morning and as a result, the morning briefing was postponed by an hour which would have a knock-on effect for the whole day. A decision had to be made whether to continue or call the rally off and after input about the conditions and cloud base altitude Rob Jonkers and Safety Officer Nigel Musgrave made a call that the rally would go ahead albeit a bit later than planned.
After a condensed version of the evening briefing, it was time for the crews to get their aircraft on the starting grid and await the scrteneering of Lizelle Kruger, Louna De Vos, Bernhardt Jansen and Adriaan Cronje team to inspect for any contraband and ensure all fuel tanks are filled to the brim. Twenty minutes before take-off the teams receive their papers and loggers, the papers contain the route to be flown and identifying photographs for each turn-point.
Control of the rally is then handed over to the starting team of Mark Clulow and Sean Cronin, they were situated at the displaced threshold of runway 03 and set all the teams off at their exact starting times sometimes only a few seconds separated the aircraft. The first aircraft, a De Haviland Chipmunk crewed by Grant Timms and Duncan Ritchie took off at 10:30, the aircraft were released from slowest to fastest and if a perfect round is flown at handicap speed they should all return at exactly 13:00. The last aircraft released to chase the pack was the Piper Seneca of Eugene van Staden and Manaf Mubarak forty minutes later.
The handicapping system appears to be spot on as 75% of the aircraft arrived back at Springs within one minute of each other, some of the crews got a little lost which cost them valuable time. The standard of flying has improved remarkably since the first speed rally held over two years ago where the majority of the competitors lost their way at some point this time it was a very small minority that lost their way.
The scoring team then sprang into action downloading tracks from the loggers and analysing all the data, the scoring team deserve a special mention for the sheer volume of work they manage to complete under extreme pressure, everyone wants to know how they performed.
The 2020 Springs Speed Rally being the season finale and due to the cancellation of the Aero Club Awards Dinner also became the venue for the Gala Dinner where the season's results were announced. All the inquisitive crews would have to wait until later in the evening to get the final results for this rally as well as the season championships. please click here to see the full results