2006 Bank President’s Trophy Air Race
Held at Klerksdorp – 25 to 27 May 2006
“The Most Prestigious Aviation Event in South Africa” and “The Largest Air Race in the World”. These are some of the words used to describe the President’s Trophy Air Race. The 2006 Race did not disappoint.
This year showed a record entry of 110 aircraft, the largest ever. In fact this number will probably not be exceeded without a change to the format of the race as there is a limit of the number of aircraft that can safely land on an airfield over the short period of time as is required on day 2 of the Race.
Organised by Kassie Kasselman and the Klerksdorp Pilots Association (KPA) and well supported by sponsors Marsh, Alexander Forbes, Air BP and Naturelink the 2006 race was one to remember. Apart from a small hitch with the supply of fuel due to the bowser breaking down on route to the airfield, the organisation was slick and went off without any major snags.
On arrival it was obvious that a lot of effort had gone into the planning of the event. The airfield was immaculate with numbered parking for each aircraft. This new innovation was given the thumbs up by all participants except a few with race numbers above 90. These guys were parked very far from the action. There were also two large marquee tents, a red and white striped one for general socialising and a separate white one which was used to house the registration area and for the pilot briefings. It is indeed a pleasure for the pilots to be able to listen to briefings without having the distraction of the noise of supporters and spectators enjoying themselves.
The format for the 2006 was unchanged and the program comprised of an arrival day and two race days. This year the arrivals were compacted as there was fog over most of the Gauteng area resulting in late departures for Klerksdorp combined with a sterling effort of all pilots attempting to arrive before the cut-off at 12:00.
Those that missed this arrival action were the winners of the 2005 Air Race, Andre Koen and Errol janse van Rensburg. They arrived a few days early to get in some practice. They were determined to defend of their title. This feat has previously only been achieved by two pilots, Mike van Ginkel (1969 and 1972) and Robbie Schwartz (1984 and 1988).The first briefing was held on Thursday evening in the white tent. On this occasion Chris Booysen handed out 10 Year Badges to Walter Walle and Johnny Mayer (Snr) and also congratulated Jannie Visser on his 21st Air Race. The safety briefing was done by Graeme Conlyn. An improvement that organisers should consider for the future is to give the participants a written briefing to take away with them. This would result in a shorter briefing giving the crews more time to prepare their maps.
The route for Day 1 was from Klerksdorp to Schweizer-Reneke, Zeerust, Fochville and back to Klerksdorp a distance of 319 nautical miles. While the navigation was not too difficult flying conditions were with a quartering North-Westerly wind all around the course.
As is normal the fastest aircraft left first and the slowest last resulting in the field spreading along the route. The take off’s were every 30 seconds with the TV chopper buzzing up and down the side of the runway to ensure adequate footage for the TV broadcast on Supersport, as well as for a DVD that would be sold to competitors.
The day was not without incident as Race 103, the Samba of Hubi von Moltke and Gerald Ackhurst started overheating so they decided to a precautionary landing. Race 108, the Turbo Arrow of Mike Mayers and Werner Swart did a forced landing with a problem with a fuel indicator pipe. There were other tales of woe after day one. In total there were 7 aircraft excluded from the results for various reasons.
One of the hard luck stories was that of the experienced Myburgh father and son team in Race 15. They were marked as not observed at Schweizer-Reneke but their logger track shows clearly that they passed overhead, albeit after an extended cross country that would have meant that they had little chance of ending anywhere in the top half of the results. (Ed – maybe the marshals had gone home)
The largest time gain for Day 1 was achieved by John Sayers and Cilliers Manser in the Harvard. They were closely followed by the Albatross of the Marx brothers and the Arrow IV of Dana and Daniel Bensch. What is interesting is that all these competitors were on the waiting list and only got into the race as a result of withdrawals of other competitors.
While a full analysis of the logger tracks has not yet been done it appears as if the shortest distance on Day 1 was flown by Race 69, the Jabiru of Sias Truter and Louis Terblanche.
A strict application of the rules saw a number of time penalties being handed out by the competition management which were ratified by the jury. One crew was excluded due to dangerous flying. This is a good sign as competitors need to know that unsafe flying and breaches of rules will be severely dealt with. This also changes a trend that crept in over the past couple of years.
The route for day two was a bow tie course to Kroonstad, then to Parys, back over Klerksdorp on the way to Lindberg Lodge, Lichtenberg and home to Klerksdorp. The distance was 327 nautical miles making the total distance for both days of the event just over 651 nautical miles.
It is always difficult to explain to a newcomer how the start times of day two are determined. The best way to explain it is that the competition director decides on a finishing time for the end of Day 2. The scorers then calculate the start time of each aircraft using their handicap speed that will result in the aircraft finishing at the designated time. As it is a two day race the calculated is adjusted by the time gained or lost on day one so that aircraft that lost time on day one will start later than their designated time and aircraft that gained time will start earlier than their designated start time.
Day 2 was not without its share of drama. Johan la Grange and his daughter did a precautionary landing in their Jabiru as the fuel warning light was on. This turned out to be a false alarm but the aircraft tyre was punctured which put an end to their race. Race 97 also withdrew after aborting their take off.
The main news for the day was the forced landing of potential winner Race 110, the Harvard of John Sayers and Cilliers Manser due to a fuel problem. This happened on the last leg of the race.
Oblivious to all this drama were the members of the Association of Virtual Aviators (AVA) who were flying the equivalent air race in a hanger on the airfield. AVA and SAPFA have developed close links with AVA competing alongside SAPFA members at the Air Race and at Rally Flying Championships. AVA members have also developed scenery to help the Protea Flying team get some virtual practice in France prior to the World championships later this month.
Logger tracks show that the Day 2 route was a more difficult navigation exercise especially the leg between Lindberg Lodge and Lichtenberg. Almost all the aircraft strayed to the left of the direct routing from the Lodge to Lichtenberg. The turning point was fairly easy to find so most aircraft made the correction close to Lichtenberg and passed over the turning point and the marshals. Most entrants thought the Lodge would be difficult to find but this was not the case. The leg from the Lodge was also difficult as the wind direction swung 180 degrees during the leg.
The finish was spectacular with 94 aircraft finishing within 40 minutes. The circuit was large and spread out over the Vaal River, approximately 7 miles away. A challenging cross wind made some of the landings a little more spectacular than the pilots would have liked.
First over the line was Race 25, the Albatross of Ivan and Martin Marx, followed after a couple of minutes by Race 94, Carl and Albert Basson, a Jabiru. 30 seconds later Race 100 a C210 with Eugene Swart and Steyn Fourie as crew.
Unfortunately these crews were not aware that Race 46, the Piper of Dana and Daniel Bensch had taken off late due to an electrical problem. In terms of the rules the scorers had to take account of this delay and this resulted in the Bensch team being placed first. Credit must go to Daniel to have navigated under such conditions.
There has been some discussion among entrants as to the rule that allows a competitor to take off late. Some feel that it adds to the excitement to only know the final winner at the banquet while others feel that, as far as possible, the first over the line should be declared the winner. The SAPFA committee will probably debate this issue at their meeting later this year when the rules for 2007 are finalised. While rule changes have been few and far between they will have to be updated to make place for the new technology and the increased requirements for safety as numbers of aircraft are at the maximum.
The prize giving banquet was held at the Klerksdorp Recreational Centre and was filled with competitors, sponsors, officials, supporters and press. The popularity of this race is making it difficult to find venues that can accommodate the aircraft and the functions. Practically the field will probably have to be limited unless a method is introduced whereby some aircraft are eliminated after the racing of the first day. As is the tradition the banquet was a formal affair, black tie and a smattering of National colours and dark suits. A very pleasant meal was dished up by the local caterers and the function was a great place for the competitors to relax and swop war stories.
The Presidents Trophy was awarded to the Bensch Team with the Air Charter Trophy for the second team going to the Marx brothers. The Vincent McLean Trophy for 3rd place was awarded to Team Basson. Winners of the AVA section were Rassie Erasmus and Buks Hugo.