The 2020 Speed Rally season, like many other sporting events, was completely upended by the Covid-19 pandemic. The season got off to a promising start in with the first race being held in Springs and the second at Witbank just before the world was flung into “Caronamania”. As a result of having to cancel two of the planned events, SAPFA decided to extend the 2020 season to the end of the year which will include the Springs Speed Rally as a season “Finale”.
Secunda Airfield hosted the latest instalment of this exciting new aviation sport, which is referred to as the fastest-growing sport aviation code in South Africa. The Speed Rally was born at Secunda in late 2018 and since then have grown exponentially, until COVID hit that is. Now that people were allowed to cross provincial borders it was time to get things up and running again. Secunda Aero Club under the leadership of Johan van Niekerk offered to host the Rally and as in the past, the team from the club pulled out all the stops to make it a memorable occasion.
Speed Rallies are a weekend event starting with the test flights on Friday to determine or update the participant's handicap speeds. Friday evening its time for the “Briefing on Steroids” where the participants receive their race numbers for the following day. The numbers are issued according to the positions on the championship table, making the race No.1 a very coveted asset. Unfortunately, the test flights were cut short by a very nasty wind that kept some of the pilots on the ground and the test flights had to be completed early on Saturday morning.
Race day morning arrived and conditions had improved greatly and everything was set for a wonderful days racing. After the outstanding test flights were completed it was time for the morning safety briefing. Rob Jonkers ran the competitors through the basic rules and landing procedures, the restricted airspace over Sasol makes it a bit tricky.
The competitors then moved to their aircraft to prepare themselves and their aircraft for the competition. Marc Robinson and Shane Somerville from Century Avionics kindly offered up their time to assist the scrutineering team in disabling up any moving maps, GPS devices and autopilots before the race, this ensures a level playing field for all the competitors. The team of scrutineers then visited the aircraft and teams ensuring the tanks were full and all handheld GPS devices were sealed in an envelope if the envelope is opened in the flight the team is immediately disqualified. This all took place under the watchful eye of Nigel Musgrave, Safety Officer and members of the CAA.
Twenty minutes before the allotted take-off time the teams receive their “Papers”, an envelope containing two GPS loggers, a pre-plotted map of the route and photos of each turning point clearly showing the elevation of the turning point and the direction they must round the point.
After a short study of the map, the teams make their way to the start. At the allotted time official starter Mark Clulow and Chief Marshall Adrian Cronje set them on their way with a wave of a flag. The aircraft are released from the slowest to the fastest insuring a very exciting finish as the competitors should all arrive overhead at exactly the same time if they flew a perfect track that is.
Rob Jonkers set up a course including some very easily identifiable turn points with a few more difficult turn points thrown into the mix, judging by the tracks after the event turn point number six seemed to be especially challenging with most of the competitors having a bit of difficulty with it. The handicapping system is proving to be the fairest that has been seen in Air Racing for many years with the bulk of the teams arriving back within 60 seconds of each other.
Once the aircraft were all back on the ground safely it was time for the scoring team to download the info from the loggers and determine the final scores. This normally proves to be a stressful time for the teams while they wait for their “report cards”. With the field limited to almost half the normal field due to Covid-19 protocols the wait for final scores was significantly shorter than normal and by 13:30 all the scores were in and it was time for the official awards ceremony.
The first trophy awarded is the hosting club and this was the third such trophy that Secunda Flying Club has received, all of these are proudly displayed in the trophy cabinet at the club. The most creative route trophy was awarded to the team that managed to lose the plot slightly, this honour was bestowed on the team of Hilton Wolff and Rob Osner. The track they flew would have been considered pretty good in the first season of Speed Rallies, this just proves the level of improvement over the last year.
Another new addition to the trophies is an award for the team with the best team spirit, Lourence Matthee and Christo Erasmus well earned this award.
It was now time to get down to the serious stuff, the Handicap and Accuracy category. In the Handicap category father and son team of Hendrik and Jandré Loots, the duo have put in many hours of practice in there Sling 2 and it is definitely paying off.
In second place was the team from Springs Airfield and also flying in a Sling, Eugene van Staden and Manaf Mubarak. They were followed by the fastest team at the event Leon Joubert and Sandi Goddard in the speedy Lancair.
The Accuracy category winners were once again Hendrik and Jandré Loots, incidentally, they started this event carrying the No.1 and they will be keeping it for the next event.
In the second place, yet another father and son team, Johan Whiteman & Quintin Kruger in their Cherokee 235 at the last Secunda Rally this team experienced a bit of difficulty and they were adamant to set the record straight this time around. Third place belonged to Phil Wakeley and Mary de Klerk, a team that led the championship for most of the inaugural season. Phil and Mary compete in a Cessna 210.
The overall winner for the 2020 Secunda Speed Rally was Hendrik and Jandré Loots further cementing their lead in the Championships.
Many thanks to the Secunda Aero Club for hosting this fantastic event, the SAPFA team of Adrian Cronje as the Chief Marshall, Nigel Musgrave as the Safety Officer, Dirk de Vos doing the scoring, Mark Clulow & Sean Cronin doing test flights and starting, Marc and Shane for Century Avionics for Scrutineering, Chareen Shillaw, Lizelle Kruger handing out competition papers to the crews as well as Scrutineering, Jonty, Lizelle and Sandy for putting together an awesome Friday evening launch event, and the ATNS team for managing the ATC for the weekend.