by Rob Jonkers
This is the 3rd Speed Rally in Season 4 for 2022, which after the weather challenges of the first three in this season turned out with pristine conditions on Saturday morning, albeit very windy later on, giving some good challenging flying conditions to contend with.
For this event, the organisers looked at changing the format slightly, where instead of a Friday arrivals with test flights and an evening briefing with dinner for an early start on Saturday changed to a Saturday & Sunday event with competitors arriving early Saturday and a mid-morning briefing. As many of the competitor aircraft have previous test flown handicaps or event history, the number of test flights would only be limited to new entrants which could be done in the early morning prior to the briefing. The idea was that the first take-off would take place around midday with a finish around 2 PM, where after results would be available in the late afternoon with a prize giving and dinner for the Saturday night. This would allow a good opportunity to network and engage with friends and the local club community.
The Groblersdal Club went to great lengths to make the event successful, and also combined the Speed Rally with a fly-in, and prepared an excellent surface taxiway in this last week to accommodate operation to both ends of the runway. Also, some more firsts for the Speed Rally series, previous Race Director Rob Jonkers passed the baton fully on to Iaan Myburgh to prepare and run the event together with David le Roux as the Race Master, and took the opportunity to fly a race-type event for the very first time, prior to this either having been in the back office, route planning and directing since 2016. It was great to be taking a back seat and be on the other side of the fence….
And given this, can now report first-hand the experience of flying at speed. SAPFA Chair Leon Bouttell offered to fly the event in his Sportstar as a late entry, and after some discussion decided to fly with him navigating given my navigation skills being rustier. At papers time I collected the envelope and had to take a brisk walk to get to the aircraft parked some 200 m away, strap in while Leon started plotting, essentially I got a map with the route highlighted and he went to prepare the 2nd map with minute markers to allow us to assess progress along the route.
This was concluded prior to start-up and after taxi, to the holding position, we still had some 5 minutes to go through the route and discuss altitudes to fly at. Barrelling down runway 05 we first had to pick up speed in ground effect and have a positive rate of climb prior to the first turn after the end of the runway which was a steep left at almost 180 deg (the preferred take-off direction was actually Rwy 23 but changed due to wind conditions favouring 05 and it is downhill).
Not having flown the Sportstar for some time had to get used to the very light controls (compared to a C182), so the first leg was a little skittish in heading and it took most of that leg to get oriented, which resulted in a turn-point miss on turn-point 1, which most competitors found difficult to find. After that we settled down and could get on with finding the next turn-points, checking track position relative to the far field and close to features.
Around halfway we sighted the Ercoupe in front of us and proceeded to haul them in. Still, not long after that the Cessna 150 with Ron & Von overtook us, just to see them almost miss turn-point 8 having to jinx left and then right to get around the turn-point, this brought them closer to us again before disappearing into the distance. For sure it remains important not to lose energy around turns. Thereafter we overtook first-timers, Benjamin & Clinton, in their Bushcat coming into the home straight, and I started wondering where the faster aircraft behind us, and then no less than 15 seconds from the finish line the Comanche ZS-NXG, the 235 ZS-FVV and the C210 ZS-CNY came zooming past as if we were standing still, at least it looked like we must have arrived overhead in 5th place.
The wind for sure had an effect on us all, with much turbulence, and even though staying between 3500 & 4000 ft, I let the aircraft drift up with thermal / wave lift where it happened, and bled off altitude to pick up speed taking advantage on the conditions. All in all great to fly one of these, and for sure there are strategies to follow, navigation accuracy to be maintained, energy management around turn-points, and altitude management, it is not for sure not just a full throttle burn around a track, each element an important ingredient in achieving leader board positions as seconds count, where an average of an hour’s flight is involved.
After everybody was safe on the ground, Iaan and Tarryn got to work with scoring, concluded this by 4 PM, and then awaited the prize-giving at 6 PM hosted by David le Roux. A number of competitors were not able to stay over, thus prize giving had a number of winners not being present.
For the Navigation Accuracy category, third place went to Ron Stirk and Von Hamman in their Cessna 150 ZS-NBT, in 2nd place Willem Kruger & Cris Moolman as first timers in their Alouette 2 ZU-RAH, and in 1st place Stefan Lombard & Martiens Marais in their Piper Comanche ZS-NXG.
For the Handicap/Speed category, third place went to Phil Wakeley & Mary de Klerk in their C210 ZS-CNY, in 2nd place Stefan Lombard & Martiens Marais in their Piper Comanche ZS-NXG, and in 1st place Quintin Kruger & Johan Whiteman in their Cherokee 235 ZS-FVV.
Overall Winners in third place went to Phil Wakeley & Mary de Klerk in their C210 ZS-CNY, in 2nd place Quintin Kruger & Johan Whiteman in their Cherokee 235 ZS-FVV, and in 1st place Stefan Lombard & Martiens Marais in their Piper Comanche ZS-NXG.
Many thanks to the Groblersdal Flying Club for hosting this fantastic event, supporting with logistics and great meals available throughout the day, Iaan Myburgh as Race Director, Nigel Musgrave as the Safety Officer, Shane with his team from Century Avionics for technical scrutineering, David le Roux as Race Master, and all the SAPFA and Grobersdal Club members who supported marshalling and administration.
Also, thanks to our headline sponsor Holborn Assets, Pilot Insure, Flying Eyes and our sponsored teams, Prompt Roofing, Beagle Tracking, Gem Air and Mnandi Signs.
Our next Speed Rally event will be at Springs on the 30th of September 2022, which will be the Season 4 finale, with a gala dinner to round it off.
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