The Speed Rally circuit returned to its place of birth, Secunda Airfield, to conclude the 2018-2019 season. The Speed Rally concept was born a year ago when SAPFA members were looking for a way to increase the participation in Rally Flying as there had been a serious decline in the preceding years. A totally new concept was born, it was so successful that the 2019 PTAR adopted the new format and the Prestigious Presidents Trophy Air Race was saved from being relegated to the annuals of history.
The Speed Rally’s Started last year, with the first event being held in Secunda on the Saturday 6 October 2018, no-one knew what to expect form the new format. Jonty Essers infectious enthusiasm spread quickly and soon a total of twenty three aircraft had entered for the first ever Speed Rally. After the event it was evident that SAPFA were on to something big here and since then it has grown exponentially.
Secunda October 2018
The second Speed Rally was organised for November and was hosted at Springs Airfield. Word had got around and a cap of thirty aircraft was implemented, needless to say the cap was quickly reached and a waiting list for prospective entrants was established. After the success and popularity of the first edition a season championship was designed with teams receiving points for Navigation and Speed. The first leader of the championship, the team of Phil Wakeley and Mary de Klerk, were awarded the coveted NO.1 for this rally. The no.1 position has since then changed hands a few times.
Springs November 2018
The popularity of the new format was spreading fast and wide, so wide that the aviation community in the Western Cape invited the organisers to bring the concept down to Morningstar. Sponsorship for this new flying discipline was gaining momentum and on 2 February 2019 the Morningstar Speed Rally was held, unfortunately the weather didn’t quite play along, preventing some of the teams from getting to the venue and also causing some of the teams to abandon the rally halfway thorough. Thirty Aircraft had entered the rally but due to the weather only twenty-six of them could start and seven were forced to abandon and head home. Despite the weather the rally was a great success.
Morningstar February 2019
In March the Aero Club of South Africa hosted their annual air week at Middleburg Airfield, the ideal opportunity to introduce Speed Rally’s to a wider aviation audience. The Middleburg Speed Rally was the first Rally sponsored by PilotInsure, a name that has become synonymous with Speed Rally’s. Due to popular demand the cap of thirty was lifted thirty-five and this was reached almost immediately, unfortunately due to a technical problem one of the teams had to withdraw on short notice and the rally went ahead with thirty-four teams.
Middelburg March 2019
Bethlehem was chosen as the venue for the fifth instalment, the cap for the number of entries had once again been lifted, now allowing forty aircraft to enter. The popularity was growing even some of the veteran PTAR competitors decided to come and try their hand at this exciting twist on rally flying. After the Bethlem rally the championship was blown wide open with any of the top six teams in with a good chance of taking the championship at the season finale in Secunda.
Bethlehem June 2019
The Secunda Airfield was a hive of activity on Friday with team’s test flying and generally getting ready for the big day. On Friday evening the customary “Briefing on Steroids” was held with all the teams receiving their official race numbers. Rob Jonkers kicked the evening off with a safety briefing and an explanation of the rules for the race. A decision was also taken to create an entrance gate to all the turning points which the aircraft must pass through to prevent penalties. The gate was a three Nautical mile wide line 90˚ to entrance of the turning point fortunately none of the teams missed the gate.
The weather on Saturday morning was a bit nasty with high winds and a fast descending cloud base, some of the teams had to withdraw as they were only planning on arriving on Saturday morning but the weather in Gauteng didn’t allow them to get there. After the morning briefing it was “go” time, the weather wasn’t improving or deteriorating so a decision was made to get the rally underway.
The teams got their aircraft parked in their assigned parking’s and waited for the scrutineers to come and check that the tanks are brimmed and all contraband was sealed in the bags provided. The course route is given to the teams twenty minutes before their take off time, that’s when the frantic scramble begins. Ten minutes before take-off the teams taxi up to the starting area and wait for their turn to get airborne.
Chief Marshal Jacques Jacobs and Mark Clulow manned the start point; the starting area can get very busy with some of the aircraft leaving within seconds of the one in front of them. All the aircraft should, if they flew a perfect track at handicap speed, arrive at exactly midday.
A new dimension was added to this Rally with live tracking offered by Beagle Tracking, spectators could watch the top fives race unfold live on a big screen in the hangar. The spectators and supporters are normally totally in the dark as to what is happening out on the course while the rally is in progress. Hopefully in future all the aircraft will have trackers, this will really add excitement for the people on the ground as well as a new dimension of safety for all the crews.
Beegle Trackers are designed for aviators, by aviators – who also happen to be engineers. Their products are designed to provide unprecedented ease of use, yet feature rich, freeing up the pilot to focus on flying. Besides keeping people on the ground informed of your whereabouts, noteworthy events such as take-off, landing, high rate of descent, and many more, can easily be configured to be emailed or sent as a text message to interested parties. Beegle is a trademark of Intricode Solutions, and comes from a high pedigree, having been in the Iridium tracking business for over 15 years with products ranging from animal and bird tracking, marine remote engine monitoring, personnel tracking and bespoke tracking solutions, and is a proud supplier to NASA. Beagle Tracking in addition to supplying the top five teams with trackers, sponsor the team of Johan Whitman and Quinton Kruger, unfortunately they got a bit lost due to an ineffective compass.
The finish to this rally was very exciting with fifteen aircraft crossing through the finish gate within two minutes, six minutes later all the aircraft had crossed the line safely. The closeness of the pack proves that the Speed Rally handicapping system is very fair to all competitors. I personally believe this is the secret to the speed rally’s success. Once all the loggers were retrieved it was time to download the data and score each individual track. The team of scores must be commended for their hard work as the number of entrants increase, the harder they have to work.
After a long nervous wait for all the competitors it was time for the awards ceremony in the main hangar. The main sponsor of not only this but the last three Speed Rally’s, PilotInsure was given the opportunity to address the competitors. David le Roux gave everyone a brief overview of what PilotInsure can offer them. Rob Jonkers then gave everyone a breakdown of how the day went, some of the tracks shown were almost perfect and some went a wrong.