By Andre Venter
In the run-up to the SAPFA Rally Flying National Championships and ultimately the 22nd World Rally Flying Championships, which are both planned to be held at the picturesque Stellenbosch airfield later in the year, the National team hopefuls have been hard at work.
Jonty Esser, the SA coach, assisted by members of SAPFA has put together a series of training camps to give the teams the best opportunity to qualify and more importantly be competitive against the international teams. On Saturday 13 March the latest of these camps were held at Brits airfield, ten teams took up the challenge and a challenge it was.
One of the 2014 Nationals Routes was dusted off for the teams to practice being a few years old really added to the difficulty as the turning point and route photos were also fairly old and the terrain may have changed slightly since they were taken. As a result, keeping accurate timing and track became all the more important, ensuring that the teams could not simply identify the turning points from a distance one had to be almost on top of the point to positively identify it.
Had this been a National Qualification Competition rather than a practice only four of the ten teams would have qualified for national colours. The pack was led by Jonty Esser and Sandi Goddard who flew exceptionally well scoring only 90 points, a score that would put them in the top five teams in the world.
Adrian Pilling and Mary de Klerk came in second with a very respectable 334 points, Mary didn’t only compete as a navigator but also served as the pilot for Steve van der Merwe in this attempt they managed a good third place with 515 points. Protea veterans Hans Schwebel and Ron Stirk came in fourth with 532 points. Rob Jonkers and Martin Meyer finished in the fifth position.
The teams are very committed to making the Nation proud when they get to compete at the highest level. Jonty and his team will be organising training sessions almost every weekend until the Nationals in mid-April. I sure their training will intensify as they get closer to the World Championships in November.
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