A track was laid out and Jonty and a number of selected teams started to practice the concept. This kind of navigation is one that it one is no longer looking for an intersection or a dam wall. The resolution is now one where has to be able to fly through the eye of a needle, like looking for the red carport next to the green house roof. The track is 0.8 nm in width, this providing manoeuvring room in the sometimes-constant turns and chicanes.
The Grand Prix Circuit
The circuit is akin to a grand prix circuit in the sky and of course easy to make one as the sky is the limitÖ. The format remains exactly the same as the speed rally:- any type of aircraft can take part and is handicapped with the intent to look at a simultaneous finish over the finish line.
The course is around 60 nm long and consists of three laps of 20 nm each. After each lap you can start to see how the competitors are closing up. The track is in fact a corridor, similar as is done in the Air Navigation Race (ANR) and the idea is to keep within that corridor. If you go out of bounds competitors incur an instant penalty - that is if the live tracking is working sufficiently well enough. Every corridor infringement will result in a 15 second "close the throttle" penalty.
Johan van Eeden & Cor Esterhuizen flew in Johan's Vans Rv -7A
Ivan and Jeandre vd Schaar entered their Pits Special
David Ross and James Baird raced their Sling 2
A track was laid out, and Jonty and a number of selected teams started to practice the concept, this kind of navigation is one that it is no longer looking for an intersection or a dam wall, now the resolution has to be such to be able to fly through a needle, looking for the red carport next to the green house roof. The track is 0.8 nm in width, this providing maneuvering room in the sometimes-constant turns and chicanes.
Leon Joubert and Sandy Goddard competed in Leon's Lancair
Nigel Hopkins and May de Klerk raced in the Vans Rv 8
Jonty and Jonathan Esser flew in their Cessna 150
Eric and Antoinette Addison flew their Vans Rv 7A
The way to win is as with a Formula 1 race, keep to the inside of the track to obtain the shortest route, as the handicap is based on the center of the course. Thus, the objective is to fly a route shorter that the median by hugging the inside track and keeping far enough away for no corridor infringements. The handicapping speeds were provided by Rob Jonkers who accessed at the circuit, the turns and overall distance to make an educated calculation.
After the main Speed Rally event, and a 2nd briefing of the selected 7 competitors for the GP and with all of them having practiced the route, the teams were set off by Jacques Jacobs as the flag man at the allocated time. As the teams came around, you could see them all getting closer to each other, up to the point of the last lap where Jonty's Cessna 150 came over the line 45 seconds before the remainder, who all came over the line very closely. Jonty was followed by Nigel Hopkins & Mary de Klerk and Johan van Eeden & Cor Esterhuizen in 3rd place. After touch down, a Champagne cork popping podium winners circle was held with trophies handed over, just like F1.
Members of the SAC showed their skills during the event on Saturday
As a concept, this is still in its infancy, the Sport Aerobatics Club (SAC) has expressed great interest in being part of this new format, as have Airshows South Africa as it will be great to have more sections of the Aero Club be part of inter section support. The handicapping will still require some work, but with sufficient data, this can be developed. The live tracking system, which is still an elusive mechanism, appears not to be robust enough and is also costly. Our networks may have insufficient bandwidth too, but I am sure a solution will be found at some stage.
Sadly, two Gremlins cause some discussion points and controversy.
With live tracking the Chief Judge should have and would call out in-flight penalties - (On the 1st and 2nd lap a 15sec straight out penalty would be given - this means the Crew has to at the end of the lap fly straight for 15sec from the finish line straight out and then join the course safely again and on the Last Lap a DNF (did not finish) would be given -this would mean the crew would need to slow down and finish last) - All in the spirit of having the first over the line be crowned the winner.
Sadly the live tracking technology let us down and no live penalties could be given in flight for this first event. We are currently working on new technology to not have this happen again, in the meantime we will fly the course and after landing download the loggers and declare the winner after the Chief Judge has analyzed the tracks.
Additionally, we had another gremlin at the start line with takeoff times, the first aircraft ZU-BLL was sent on time and the rest of the pack was sent off later than their takeoff times by about between 15sec and 30sec giving the slower aircraft an unfair advantage. To rectify this, we will now have a GPS digital Large Led clock at the start, and it will be the Crews responsibility to take off on the correct time to the second. The Chief Judge will only check that the crews do not leave early, leaving early will incur a 15 sec straight out penalty after the first lap.
So the concept is simple, First over the line wins.
This weekend initial Grand Prix Racers results ended as follows:
1st Place - Pilot Insure Team - ZU-BLL - Jonathan and Jonty Esser
2nd Place - SAC Team - ZU-NDH - Nigel Hopkins and Mary de Klerk
3rd Place - Fast Flame Team - ZU-IHH - Johan van Eeden and Cor Esterhuizen
4th Place - Prompt Roofing Team - ZU-LNC - Leon Joubert and Sandi Goddard
5th Place - SAPFA Team - ZU-LAX - Eric and Antionette Addison
6th Place - Airshows South Africa - ZU-LVE - Father and Son - Ivan and Jeandre van der Schaar
7th Place - Lick you Lips - ZU-JAR - David Ross and James Braid
After realizing that the live tracking failed us we downloaded the loggers the next day to analyze our tracks and wanted to see how we can improve the sport for the competitors and supporters.
Sadly, both ZU-BLL and ZU-LAX marginally touch the red area on the first lap directly after takeoff and not again for the remainder of the race, and although this gave no advantage to the crews I decided to apply the rules DNF to ZU-BLL and ZU-LAX.
This means the official Winners of the First Ever Grand Prix Speed Rally in the World are:
1st Place - SAC (South African Aerobatics Club) Team - ZU-NDH - Nigel Hopkins and Mary de Klerk
2nd Place - Fast Flame Team - ZU-IHH - Johan van Eeden and Cor Esterhuizen
3rd Place - Prompt Roofing Team - ZU-LNC - Leon Joubert and Sandi Goddard
4th Place - Airshows South Africa - ZU-LVE - Father and Son - Ivan and Jeandre van der Schaar
5th Place - Lick you Lips - ZU-JAR - David Ross and James Braid
Shared 6th Place
Pilot Insure Team - ZU-BLL - Jonathan and Jonty Esser
SAPFA Team - ZU-LAX - Eric and Antionette Addison
What was very visible at this Speed Rally weekend was the enthusiasm of the aviation youth that were present. The organisers are working on making the format of our events more exciting which should encourage more youngsters to take part in the future.
The flown track of Jonty Esser (in red) with the yellow path as the inner limit of "do not cross (for fear of penalties) - C150 ZU-BLL
The flown track of David Ross (in green) with the yellow path as the inner limit - Sling 2 ZU-JAR - note the path mostly towards the center of the corridor
The flown track of Nigel Hopkins (in purple) with the yellow path as the inner limit - RV8 - ZU-NDH
Thank you to Adelaar BlueStar and Sapphirus BlueStar from Sanlam Financial Advisory Services. Sanlam Grand Prix Girls chaperoned our Elite selected Grand Prix Pilots and Navigators, making sure they were well looked after and kept covered in the shade at all times with the Sanlam umbrellas.
Thank you also to all the Team Sponsors:
Teams and sponsors