The second qualifier for the South African Rally National team (Q2) was held in Brits from 18 – 20 June. We had lost some time due to bad planning and bad weather so we crammed the weekend before full of training! On Sunday, a few of the teams spent the day flying a short route with the idea of trying to bingo the time over the windsock.
The almost oddly shaped circuit around the airfield had 4-turnpoints with each leg approximately 2 minutes long. We would pin down our timing by noting the time we think we are over the windsock and we use the logger to see how close we really are. This helps to make sure that when we fly over a turn point, we know where to look to determine our accuracy and get a better idea of how to bingo them. When every second matters, knowing exactly where to look is critical and even the angle of your head matters!
We had a 10kt wind directly down the runway, which on these very short legs, really shows how early and how aggressively to manage a headwind and tailwind. All the participating teams made a significant improvement over the day and we were excited to reduce our points from 129 to 63 and then to 24. Not bad! If only we could do each race route three times before we got scored!
After the practice we headed directly to Brits to hopefully get a flight or two in to get to know the area a bit better before Q2. Knowing the area and understanding how the maps show features relevant to the area is invaluable in a race!
On the previous trip to Brits, I was lucky enough to fly in loose formation with another competitor through the Pinedene route. This corridor is used to avoid a long flight around all the restricted airspace over Johannesburg, but it means that it is a relatively narrow corridor within Waterkloof airspace and directly north of O.R. Tambo airspace. Without many obvious visual clues to confirm you are on track, it is a bit intimidating as you have to request permission from Waterkloof Tower and you need to have a good idea of where the reporting points are so you stay on track and follow the instructions. And so, with my newly found confidence, I decided to try it again on my own and had a blast! There was significant haze making it a bit tough to spot my next reporting point – the Pinedene Station, which is really one tiny derelict building in the middle of nowhere! After a short detour for a scenic flight over Hartebeespoort Dam along the way, I landed in Brits just before sunset.
Having apparently learnt nothing from our Stellenbosch trip, I flew to the field without arranging anything while Iaan drove through. Naturally on a Sunday evening, most airfields are pretty abandoned, and Brits was no exception. After landing, I parked, tied down and unpacked with not a soul in sight. Iaan arrived at the gate and we couldn’t get hold of anyone to let me out so a plan had to be made. Luckily, the fence is only electrified on the outside so after throwing my flight bags over the gate, I climbed my way up. At the top and wondering how to move my foot without touching a wire, I asked Iaan “Is this one at the top also electrified? How hard does it shock you?” ZAP came the answer! “Ow, that is actually quite hard!” I yelped as I leapt off the top. Hopefully on Monday, we can find someone to let us out!