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The 22nd World Rally Flying Championships

By Garth Calitz and Rob Jonkers

The 22nd World Rally Flying Championships finally got underway on Monday 14 November, I say finally because it has taken three years of planning to reach this point. South Africa was awarded the 2020 World Rally Flying Championships but that was unfortunately ruined by the Covid pandemic. In 2021 South Africa was once again asked to host the championships and it all looked promising but as the date grew closer the world was once again thrust into a series of lock-downs as yet another wave of Covid-19 washed in and the plans had once again been put on hold. The FAI once again offered South Africa host status, and although the venue had been moved from Stellenbosch to Brits, the third time is a charm.

The opening ceremony was held on Sunday and on Monday morning all the teams were at the airfield very early and were ready for serious competition. The weather threatened to hurl a spanner in the proverbial works, windy conditions and low cloud were the order of the day so it was decided that the teams would fly the “Bad weather route”. As we all know South Africa is known for its Mineral riches throughout the world and this was reflected in all the routes being named after one of these precious resources, the bad weather route was named “Granite”, a very fitting name as Brits is located in one of the countries richest granite areas. The wind blew Southerly most of the day prompting the judges to declare runway 20 as the take-off runway and on their return, the measured landing would take place on runway 02.

Nigel Hopkins and Mary de Klerk got off to a very promising start on day one with a very respectable second place, Nigel and Mary decided to compete in the prototype Orion Cub, a completely South African-built aircraft. As has been the case for many years the Polish competitors were proving that they are always a force to be reckoned with.

The weather for the rest of the week didn’t pose any challenges except for the intense heat. The Chrome route was chosen for day two, which once again saw the teams returning to Brits for their measured landing. Nigel and Mary had an exceptionally good day that saw them move to the top of the leaderboard.

On the third day the Copper route was selected, which saw the teams departing Brits to the North with an intermediate landing to take place at Kokoriba, the idea of an out landing was to challenge crews to land in unfamiliar territory. The runway there was imminently suitable to carry out a touch-and-go in farm strip conditions, some found it difficult and others were able to bingo the landings. Unfortunately, due to a rule technicality, the landings had to be excluded, much to the dismay of some competitors who had done well there, this included the team of Nigel and Mary who still managed to hold on to the lead.

For the final day of competition (Thursday) the Gold route was chosen, this route was flown to the west in the Rustenburg area with another away landing planned, but as the rule technicality could not be fixed for the Silver Creek runway, only a runway inspection could be flown, and a home landing at Brits was measured.

After all four days of flights, other than a few aircraft snags, all competitors could fly all the routes, we were well supported by the aircraft owners to sort out snags and issues. Thursday afternoon & evening is traditionally International day with every country taking part to bring out their speciality food and drink to sample and enjoy. Germany brought Jägermeisters, the Norwegians brought their famous Norwegian salmon, the French their French wines, and the South Africans with borewors and melktertjies.

Friday was set out as a reserve weather day and was fortunately not required, some teams took further scenic flights and others went to visit local game parks. The prize giving Ceremony was to be held at Fatherland Estate which is around 5km from the Brits airfield – which was scheduled for 7 PM. Everybody started to gather at the venue at 6.30 and David le Roux the MC for the evening called everybody to take their seats at 7h30 for starters.

The proceedings for the evening commenced, first with Rob Jonkers giving a speech of thanks to everybody involved in making the event successful, and despite the challenges, we were able to pull this significant event off. For sure the key to making this event happen was securing Aircraft, which is much more than would be the case in Europe, here only the South Africans had their own aircraft, we had to cater for 28 teams, 14 aircraft at the end of the day. Between Martin Meyer & Ron Stirk they managed to secure these aircraft for the best part of 2022 and gave congratulations on the great work done to negotiate with the owners to rent them.

All the Officials were called up to the stage to have their participation certificates handed over, after giving thanks for their support during the event, as it takes many functions to make this level of event happen successfully.

After this the Chief Judge took over with the prize giving, first being the youngest pilot category, this going to the Czech team of Lukas Behounek & Krystof Bobek, then the Landings category going to the Polish Team of Krzysztof Wieczorek & Kamil Wieczorek. Then the main category of Individual team results with 1st place going the Polish Team of Krzysztof Wieczorek & Kamil Wieczorek, in 2nd place Michal Wieczorek & Marcin Kwiatosz, and in third place South African team of Nigel Hopkins & Mary de Klerk, the first podium finish for the South Africans since 2003. Next was the Team Trophy which went to Poland in 1st place, Czech Republic in 2nd place and France in 3rd place. The Air BP best in navigation and observation trophy went to the Polish Team of Krzysztof Wieczorek & Kamil Wieczorek

After the prize giving the GAC President Hans Schwebel officially closed the event and the FAI flag was lowered, folded where the Competition Director Rob Jonkers handed it over to Phillipe Muller of France who is the appointed Competition Director for the 23rd WRFC to be held in Macon France in 2023.

With that, the 22nd WRFC was closed and guests could enjoy the main course for the evening.

There are so many thanks to be given, from all the Officials from far and wide that is the engine room of such a competition, everybody in their various roles was well versed in what they needed to do and did so very well, and to get to the end of the competition having been concluded with safe flights throughout.

A big thanks to Thanks to Lohan Otto and the BFC team for preparing the airfield and having upgraded the clubhouse as you see today. Thanks to all the SAPFA & BFC committee members that for months of planning meetings got this event fully realised.

Thanks to the CAA PEL department carrying out licence validations, also the GA department, Piet Fourie & Mothiba Kanyane on the Special Air Event application management and their daily support for the event over the last week.

Thanks to the media for their support and attendance, they always support our Recreational Aviation . Thanks to the sponsors, Absolute Aviation, DJA Aviation Insurance, Bill Harrop’s Balloon Safaris, Brits Auto, Century Avionics, Wings and Things, Puma Energy, and various local hotels & food establishments.

I am sure this event will come around to South Africa sometime in the future again, and that new teams will experience the best of South Africa. I wish all of you safe skies where ever you fly, and am sure we’ll see you again soon at the next events.