Pilanesburg/Rustenburg 26 July to 3 August 2003

The fact that South Africa were going to compete in a World Championship event on home ground really sunk in when the team was announced just after the S A Nationals at Rustenburg held during the first week of April 2003. The team selected was:

Adrian Pilling and Renier Moolman – 2003 S A Champions, Brits Flying Club,
Nigel Hopkins and Dale de Klerk – 5 time S A Champions, Brits Flying Club,
Hans Schwebel and Ron Stirk – Brits Flying Club,
Barry de Groot and Mary de Klerk – Cato Ridge Flying Club,
Frank Eckard and Quinten Tailor – Gauteng, and
Walter Walle and James Lidderd – Bloemfontein Flying Club.

Robin and Chris Spencer Scarr – Rustenburg Flying Club, and
Ernie Alexander and Wendy Barter – Brits Flying Club

2003 South African Rally Flying Team
South African Team – 13th World Rally Flying Championships

The members had a quick meeting and chose Adrian Pilling as the Team Captain and then asked Paul Barter if he would accept the thankless job of Team Manager, which he did.

A few meetings were held and a training schedule was laid down and the preparations began. We all knew that the only way that we were going to achieve a good result was to put in absolutely everything and a bit more. And did this team put in everything? Guys, (and girls) were travelling from as far as Durban and Bloemfontein almost every second weekend to attend the training camps. The Brits & Rustenburg airspace was a buzz of activity with training and even two inter provincial competitions were squeezed in. Deon v Greunen, our trusty “shrink” offered his services at a rate that we could not refuse, and, did he perform some magic with some of us? (Most of us, I think) It was amazing how he got us to build a team spirit of note in such a short time. The man is a true champion in his own rights.

By the middle of July we had flown every square mile of the area where the championships would be held. The navigators had plotted more routes in these three months than they would normally in a year. Every aspect of rally flying was covered from every angle you could imagine. WE WERE READY!

On the 25th July, We all booked into the Cabanas at Sun City and got ourselves settled so that we could do what we had been training to do.

28 July Official Practice Day

2003 World Rally Flying Championships Award Stage
Stage ready for the Awards Ceremony

The first group were up early for breakfast and on the bus at 07:00 on route to Rustenburg airfield. 08:00 was the morning briefing. Everything including the weather looked good and by 09:00 the first aircraft took off. The route was challenging with +\- 19 checkpoints and an away landing at Brits airfield. The navigators had to perform miracles with the plot as somehow a mistake had crept in and all the time sheets were wrong, some legs as much as four to five minutes. Imagine what the pilots thought when the navigator is trying to tell him to fly a course where he has to be accurate to within two seconds, but he needs to make up or lose four minutes in order to be on time. Well everyone got home safely but for a few scarred egos. No result was given for the practice due to the timing error.

What a wake up call ? The G P S loggers had taken their toll and Deon certainly didn´t make the rest any easier.

29th July. Day One.

World Rally Flying Championships
World Team Champions with France (Silver) and Poland (Bronze)

Again up early for the first group for the 08:00 briefing at Rustenburg airfield. We were assured that the timing had been sorted out but there were many sceptical looks on the competitor’s faces. First take off at 09:00 and again a challenging route. The away landing this time was at a dirt strip called “de Putt” near Northam. The only thing that made it difficult for the navigators this time was the degree of difficulty with all the plotting points versus actual checkpoints. The trig beacon at checkpoint 10 made for some interesting discussions, in the cockpit as well as after the flight. There were two beacons close to each other with the checkpoint photo taken of the second one but the actual checkpoint being the first one. With this controversy, the results were only given out to the competitors but no overall standings were published.

30th July. Day Two.

Dale de Klerk and Nigel Hopkins
World Champions Dale de Klerk and Nigel Hopkins

Same times again with an announcement at the briefing that checkpoint 10 would be scrapped for the previous day, but still no overall standings. It was a weird sensation competing but not knowing what your actual position was. Again a challenging route that took us North & East, with an away landing at Brits airfield. Then South over a very difficult area close to the Magalliesburg mountain range with new roads that were not yet on our maps. This was where checkpoint 6 caught a few of us, again with similar features on the checkpoint photo as in the actual checkpoint. To make it even more difficult, checkpoint 9, a house just over the mountain range that was very difficult to find made for a challenging course. There were a lot of sad faces after the de- briefing, but then this was a World Championship. And lets face it, Africa is not for sissies. Still no final results for day one and now day two had some more protests to be attended to.

31st July. Day Three and the final day.

D de Klerk, N Hopkins, P Barter, R Moolman and A Pilling
Team Gold Medal – From L to R: D de Klerk, N Hopkins, P Barter (Manager), R Moolman and A Pilling.

By now, whatever nerves we had left were no good to us anyway. It had been the most difficult championships that any of us had ever flown, and still we had no final results for the first two days. This time the route took us a lot further North, Northeast, than any of us had anticipated. The area was very dry with hardly any features to navigate on. And the away landing was a farm strip called “Twee Riviere”. We did not even know that this strip existed until we were overhead. Quite short and narrow, but otherwise no problem. It is situated between Rooikoppies dam and Vaalkop dam, an area that we had all covered but the airstrip was a surprise to us. Just goes to show how well the organisers had kept their secrets.

It was all over bar the shouting. Everyone was exhausted, now waiting for some form of results. Only on Friday the 1st August did we get results for day one. By now everyone had found something to keep themselves busy with and most of the foreign crews went on the trip to cultural village. By Saturday we had been given results for day two and we could now do our own calculations. South Africa was looking good.

A first place for the individual team of Nigel Hopkins And Dale de Klerk, The New WORLD CHAMPIONS. And a team gold medal for the South African team of Nigel Hopkins, Dale de Klerk, and Adrian Pilling, Renier Moolman

Renier Moolman and Adrian Pilling
Renier Moolman and Adrian Pilling  9th in the World Rally Flying Championships

Individual Results

  • 1st Hopkins N – de Klerk D – RSA
  • 2nd Darocha J – Chrzaszcz Z – Poland
  • 3rd Strube N – Sicard P – France
  • 4th Tremblet J – Bertranier J – France
  • 5th Filip J – Filip M – Czech Republic

Team Results

  • 1st Hopkins N & de Klerk D and Pilling A & Moolman R – RSA
  • 2nd Strube N & Sicard P and Tremblet J & Bertranier J – France
  • 3rd Darocha J & Chrzaszcz Z and Bartler M & Wieczorek M – Poland

Just as we thought it was all over, we realise that we need to go and defend our titles in Denmark during July 2004


Click here for the WRFC 2003 Website