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2001 President's Trophy Air Race
President's Trophy Air Race
Tempe, Bloemfontein - 9 to 11 August 2001.
By Jan Hanekom
This year's race had to be moved to this date due to the World Air Games taking place in Spain on the dates where we had the Race planned originally. Everyone thought that this will be OK and that we will have fine weather. Just to be proved wrong.
Planning went very well after an initial hiccup when the company contracted to do the advertising etc, withdrew. This left SAPFA, Bloemfontein Flying Club and Race Organizer, Johann van Gruting very little time to do all the planning in.
Pre-race day (Thursday the 9th) dawned a nice cool day with 41 aircraft and crews arriving from all over. This decline in numbers compared with last year, were mainly due to the worsening economic conditions, at least according to some of the old participants we have phoned in advance.
The Air Observer (a GPS based logging system) was for the first time officially used to test fly AC and to determine handicap speeds. This system is locally manufactured by Tilt-tech and is also internationally approved by the FAI for Rally/Precision flying at World Championship level. This was done by flying the AC under test at maximum power in a rectangular course with two legs cross-wind and one into wind and one down-wind. The unit then logs flight parameters every second of the flight. After the flight the data is then transferred to a PC and verified with respect of track and altitude holding. The result is then fed into a spreadsheet calculating the two average speeds. One for the into-wind and down-wind legs, and one for the two crosswind legs. The into-wind and down-wind average is then used for the Handicap speed. Of the twelve AC tested, not one's speed could be proved wrong. For example, one was tested at 161.07 Kts and achieved 162.08 Kts on day two. Another was tested 109.30 Kts and achieved 108.09 Kts on day two.
A lot of participants felt that this will bring back the guys who are staying away from the Race due to Handicap speeds perceived to be incorrect. Three aircraft have also been monitored on the second day to check for irregularities.
"The worst weather in the 70 year history of the race" That is how World Airnews described what faced the contestants in day one of the race. The day (Friday, 10th) started with quite a strong westerly wind (up to 25kts) that blew in a lot of clouds. The route took competitors from Tempe - Reddersburg - Zastron - Barkley East - Bethulie - Tempe. At 10h00 the fastest aircraft took off with the rest following at 30 second intervals. Everything went well until Barkley East where severe turbulence was experienced and a number of competitors also could not get close to, or overhead Barkley East. Some aircraft even flew through a snow storm.
A large amount of radio chatter followed and some competitors called it a day and returned to Tempe. One even landed on a private strip to re-think strategy (or should it read to find out where they are - just joking Mauritz). The fact that all 45 landed safely back at Tempe despite the adverse conditions says a great deal about the responsibility of the crews and the safety of the race.
Twenty-seven aircraft completed the course by getting timed at all the points This left the organizers with only these aircraft still in the Race should the normal rules be applied. This was a first ever and something had to be done to keep the Race alive. The Jury had quite a long session with the Handicapping/Scoring committee and a penalty system (minutes per turn point missed) was introduced to keep everyone in the Race. Extra time penalties were added to aircraft that returned to Tempe without trying to move on to the next point, Bethulie. One of the pilots reported that this was indeed a scary flight and another aircraft lost its compass (got stuck) during the flight.
Race day 2 (Saturday the 11th) started very cold but at least with clear blue skies and a moderate wind. The route was Tempe - Smithfield - Trompsburg - Tempe - Harmony - Bultfontein - Tempe. This time the slowest aircraft started just after 10h00 with the fastest starting last.
This proved to be a very nice flying day with all but a few crews who got lost somewhat, achieving much higher speeds - very close to their Handicaps. We had the TV there to witness the finish and Capital Sounds did their usual best to excite the local crowd. At 13h02 and 19 seconds Race 16 (ZS-CHL) with pilot Chris Briers and navigator Dries Briers, blasted through the finish point at an incredible 198 Kts to become the winners of the 2001 PTAR. Race 11 (ZS-PWC) closely followed them with Errol van Rensburg and Andre Koen in second place and Race 30 (ZS-VYI) with Harry Antel and Barry de Groot in third place.
As usual the price-giving banquet at the "Glas Paleis" was a grand finale to the Race with a lot of silverware changing hands. The feedback that we got from participants and sponsors alike was that under the circumstances (the weather on Friday) they thought it was an Air Race well run and enjoyed by most. Here I have to say that one crew, unhappy with the way the penalties for day one were applied, approached me after the price giving, with their problem. Although they have my sympathy I can only say - please follow the rules and your complaints will also be handled according to the rules. On behalf of SAPFA I would like to thank all our sponsors - Imperial Aviation, Coca-Cola, WCT, Ferreira Aviation, ATNS, Capital Sounds. I also would like to thank Johann van Gruting Race organizer), Bloemfontein Flying Club, the SAAF, Midwest Aviation, ATNS, the Handicapping & Scoring committee, the jury, all the marshals, Oom Doep and Oom Doors, and everyone else who helped to make this Race the success it has been. Without you it could not have been done.
To the competitors - thank you for your incredible sportsmanship and friendliness, and for spending the time and money to participate. Let us take up Marius Venter's (Imperial Aviation) offer to give everyone who brings another entry next year, R200 back on his or her entry fees. Let us make PTAR 2002 another race to remember.