The 22nd World Rally Flying Championships Finals 2022
By Rob Jonkers. Photos by Willie Bodenstein
At last we had arrived at the competition week, after months of planning after Sunday the 13th of November dawned everything was in place to have the event start. After the morning briefings were concluded, preparation for the opening ceremony were carried out with podiums, sound and everybody in their National dress.
Team SA Colours handing over ceremony
Parade of Nations
Karl Jensen was the MC for the Opening ceremony, which started promptly at 3PM with a Parade of Nations, each country with their National flag and country signboard walked past the clubhouse to gather around the podium, and as they walked past their National Anthem was played.
MC, Captain Karl Jensen
Rob Jonkers Chairman Aero Club of SA
Hans Schwebel Brits Flying Club member and President of the General Aviation Commission (GAC) of the FAI
The raising of the FAI Flag, signalling the official opening of the WRFC
Once this was concluded, we had the Absolute Extras do a display as Nigel & Jason brought their aircraft over from the Coves earlier, they were able to give a stunning display against a backdrop of a passing storm cell, giving the photographers a good opportunity to get some amazing footage. Nigel and Jason are thanked for being able to give the opening ceremony the appropriate opening for such a prestigious event. It was also planned that the Puma Flying Lions would do an opening display, but the threatening weather all around us prevented them from getting through from Rand Airport.
Nigel Hopkins and Jason Beamish aerobatic display
It was fortunate that while the Opening Ceremony was underway between 3 – 4 PM the rain stayed away, as after the display the formality of the Opening continued, first with the chairman of the Brits Flying Club Lohan Otto giving a speech, then onto Rob Jonkers the Competition Director giving thanks to all the people involved in getting us to the point where we could start. Thereafter Hans Schwebel as the President of the General Aviation Commission (GAC) of the FAI declared the event open by raising the FAI flag. Cocktail snacks and drink was then enjoyed by all, and in the meantime rain had descended on the Airfield again.
Some of the competing aircraft
The competition week then started out on Monday, where the weather was clearing up, although windy with low cloud, it was decided to fly the bad weather route – Granite for the day. All the routes were named after minerals in keeping with the theme of the area being rich in minerals. The only way the departure sequence would work was to use runway 20, and at least for Monday the wind was southerly all day. A measured landing would be at Brits, in this case also on runway 20, where most of the previous week the prevailing wing was northerly. After day 1 in first place was Michal Wieczorek from Poland and in 2nd place Nigel Hopkins.
Competitors in quarantine
The rest of the week had good weather predicted with increasing temperatures, and for day two, the Chrome route was flown, with a landing again at home base. After day 2 Nigel Hopkins took the lead, with Marek Kachaniak from Poland in 2nd, Michal Wieczorek had dropped to 3rd place. Day 3 the route was Copper, this route was flown up north with an intermediate landing to take place at Kokoriba, the idea of an away landing was to challenge crews to landing in unfamiliar territory. The runway there imminently suitable to carry out a touch and go in farm strip conditions, some found it difficult and others were able to bingo the landings. Unfortunately due to a rule technicality, the landings had to be excluded, much to the chagrin of some competitors who had done well there. After day 3, the standings were still with Nigel in the lead with 604 points and Michal Wieczorek in 2nd place with 753 points. Day 4 the route was Gold, this route was flown to the west in the Rustenburg area with another away landing planned, but as the rule technicality could not be fixed for the Silver Creek runway, only a runway inspection could be flown, and a home landing at Brits was measured. Day 4’s results had Krzysztof Wieczorek in 1st place with Nigel having dropped to 8th.
Spot landing judges
After all 4 days of flights, other than a few aircraft snags, all competitors could fly all the routes, we were well supported by the aircraft owners to sort out snags and issues. Thursday afternoon & evening is traditionally International day with every country taking part bring out their speciality food and drink to sample and enjoy. Germany brought Jägermeisters, the Norwegians brought their famous Norwegian salmon, the French their French wines, the South Africans with borewors and melktertjies….
Friday was set out as a reserve weather day and was fortunately not required, some teams took further scenic flights and others went to visit local game parks. The prize giving Ceremony was to be held at Fatherland Estate which is around 5km from the Brits airfield – which was scheduled for 7 PM. Everybody started to gather at the venue from 6.30 and David le Roux was the MC for the evening called everybody to take their seats at 7h30 for starters.
The proceedings for the evening commenced, first with Rob Jonkers giving a speech of thanks to everybody involved in making the event successful, and despite the challenges we were able to pull this significant event off. For sure the key to make this event happen was securing Aircraft, which is many more than would be the case in Europe, here only the South Africans had their own aircraft, we had to cater for 28 teams, 14 aircraft at the end of the day. Between Martin Meyer & Ron Stirk they managed to secure these aircraft for the best part of 2022, and gave congratulations on the great work done to negotiate with the owners to rent them.
All the Officials were called up to the stage to have their participation certificates handed over, after giving thanks for their support during the event, as it takes many functions to make this level of event happen successfully.
Over all standings
After this the Chief Judge took over with the prize giving, first being the youngest pilot category, this going to the Czech team of Lukas Behounek & Krystof Bobek, then the Landings category going to the Polish Team of Krzysztof Wieczorek & Kamil Wieczorek. Then the main category of Individual team results with 1st place going the Polish Team of Krzysztof Wieczorek & Kamil Wieczorek, in 2nd place Michal Wieczorek & Marcin Kwiatosz, and in third place South African team of Nigel Hopkins & Mary de Klerk, the first podium finish for the South Africans since 2003. Next was the Team Trophy which went to Poland in 1st place, Czech Republic in 2nd place and France in 3rd place. The Air BP best in navigation and observation trophy went to the Polish Team of Krzysztof Wieczorek & Kamil Wieczorek.
After the prize giving the GAC President Hans Schwebel officially closed the event and the FAI flag was lowered, folded where the Competition Director Rob Jonkers handed it over to Phillipe Muller of France who is the appointed Competition Director for the 23rd WRFC to be held in Macon France in 2023.
With that the 22nd WRFC was closed and guests could enjoy the main course for the evening.
There are so many thanks to be given, from all the Officials from far and wide that is the engine room of such a competition, everybody in their various roles were well versed in what they needed to do and did so very well, and to get to the end of competition having been concluded with safe flights throughout.
A big thanks to Thanks to the Lohan Otto and the BFC team for preparing the airfield and having upgraded the clubhouse as you see today.
Thanks to all the SAPFA & BFC committee members that for months of planning meetings got this event fully realised.
Thanks to the CAA PEL department carrying out licence validations, also the GA department, Piet Fourie & Mothiba Kanyane on the Special Air Event application management and their daily support for the event over the last week.
Thanks to the media for their support and attendance, they always support our Recreational Aviation
Thanks to the sponsors, Absolute Aviation, DJA Aviation Insurance, Bill Harrop’s Balloons, Brits Auto, Century Avionics, Wings and Tracks, Puma Fuel, various local hotels & food establishments.
Am sure this event will come around to South Africa sometime in the future again, and that new teams will experience the best of South Africa. I wish all of you safe skies where ever you fly, and am sure we’ll see you again soon at the next events.