Where? The Country Club, Waltham Cross, London
When? 13th September 2015, 09:00.
Who? 36 pilots including some allstars: MetallDanny, BanniUK, Chi, Francis and Hydra (Mr. Cleanflight)
Well, what an absolutely cracking day. Firstly I'd like to thank those who made the event possible (I-Drone, Video Aerial Systems, British FPV Racing Association, RunCam, Revell, UAV.graphics, Hoverspeed, FossilsStuff etc etc). Without them it would have not been possible, and I think this was definitely the biggest fpv mini quad racing event in the UK so far.
From The Top
For me, it started with getting up at 5 AM to make the near 3 hour trip down to London, and entering into my first proper event so far. I had practiced home-made gates with a friend, but that was only once - it was completely against my normal flying habits in an open-field, screaming down the fields alongside bushes and past trees. I knew already at that point that I had my work cut out, even though I knew I could fly.
Getting the show on the road
We started with a practice round for all pilots - everyone would go around the track as if it was one of the proper heats (3 heats for qualifying, the best 2 results taken), and the idea was you would familiarize yourself with the course so that you can make the most of what you've learnt when the proper racing happens. For me, if only that was the case. My practice lap consisted of going through the starting gate, and then crashing down onto the ground and spinning a few times before landing upside down and breaking a couple of propellers - not quite what I had in mind. From that moment I realized this was no walk in the park, and my current flying techniques would not actually help me much here, at least navigating around the course fast. My initial mistake was taking the GoPro off - completely changing the handling of the quad. After much deliberation into whether to put it on or to change down to 3S lipos, I took the former - a wise choice.
After my dreadful practice round I had gathered enough nerves to shake my Taranis apart, so took it as easy as possible. This time it went a little better than previously and I had managed to complete around a lap and a half before crashing out! Sadly, it wasn't purely down to me (that's what i tell myself :D) - my spotter had said to me "you are the last one left, don't crash" - literally a second later I was down :)
The next qualifying didn't go as well (we consider it well when 17 of 36 pilots failed to complete a single lap), and I didn't manage to complete the whole lap! Jon Banton - who came 2nd place in the event - was just ahead of me on the long straight, so I went for the overtake. Racing insticts kicked in and I passed him, though I had gained too much speed and couldn't scrub it off, so I crashed into the last gate of the course and that meant I hadn't even registered a lap. I was quite annoyed with myself for even trying to do so, but hey - racing is racing! :)
The results were in. Each time the 9 groups of 4 pilots had finished their heat, a new set of leaderboard results were published for all to see listing current ranks. It was important, because only 16 of the 36 were to progress onto the next rounds, and being a first event for me this HAD to be done. I had managed to score 11th place I believe it was in the first heat, but the lack of completed laps in the second heat meant I had dropped down to 17th place. This meant that I had to pull something serious out the bag to even make it into the knockout stages.
Going into the race, I was super nervous - it was make or break. I had been at an event a couple of weeks back (Rebound 2015), and taken first place at the quad racing there - while not a "official" event, I felt I had something to prove considering I'd beaten the other 6 pilots that day. I had BanniUK spotting for me this time after the first qualifying heat, and it made a difference I think (at least sub-consciously) - I took the race slow and steady, one lap at a time and zoned out from all of the commentary and talking. The last lap was so intense, as I knew I just had to get one more lap in and I'd be ok. I had a little mistake which nearly resulted in a crash but composed myself and carried on with the rest of the track. A celebratory roll and a couple of loops after passing the finish line (first I might add :D), and I just anxiously waited for the sheet of paper again.
So as you can probably make out (the gentleman closest), I had been grouped with MetallDanny - my heart sank as I knew that I had no chance of first place unless he crashed out - he was a good 10 seconds ahead per lap!
The start of our quarter final was, uh, "interesting". During the start we all lift off as normal, and for the first time in the whole tournament, the inevitable happened - we crashed into each other at the first gate! Jack had come from behind me and sliced my antenna, and pushed me down at the same time - this took us both out the race. Danny also went out at exactly the same time, so we assumed it was from a three-way crash. A video a few days later showed it seemed to be caused from something else, but nevertheless you can't really have a knockout stage where 3 people go out - so we restarted the race!
Retry. A few minutes later, after we had all repaired our quads as best we could, we took to the starting line again, lined the quads up and took our seats. The countdown began and we took off, and it went better than expected (for me). Metalldanny had seemingly suffered some Naze32 damaged, and ploughed immediately into the ground upon takeoff, soon followed by Jack England crashing out. So it was left down to me and Barry to fly a little bit to at least provide a "sort of" victory. So that was it, I'd made it through!? I was pretty amazed at that point, a stroke of luck, a little bit of improvement with my flying, and the unfortunate loss of Danny's quad.
So, I thought I had my work cut out in the Quarter final? I think once I had read who I was up against in the Semi-Final, a kind of sigh of relief was let out. The paper read I was up against Barry (who I had qualified with), Chi, and Francis. I'd been watching these 2 flying all day - Chi had a few issues with his quad, but Francis was absolutely flawless in his flying. He'd not crashed out once (that I can remember), and he was fast. Really fast. That's when the sigh of relief came about - I knew I literally had no chance to make the finals, which wasn't a bad thing as I came out what I set to do - improve my flying and get within the top 16 :).
This race was a cracking one, immediately Chi and Francis shot off like rockets, and I followed quite far behind in third place, but I was happy with that. I completed my first lap nice and steady, still shaking on the sticks, but it was going ok and that's all I could hope for. Going onto the long straight of the second lap I get Barry come flying past (he realises I've been trotting along and decides he wants a higher place), but he seemingly made the same mistake I did - gained too much speed and left little room for error :D
As we were both around a meter apart, he went to enter the last gate of the 2nd lap, but accidentally hit it - just as I was about to go through the gate was pulled down from his quad, and you can guess what happened next. The Semi continued as Francis and Chi were not far behind on their last laps, so we went over to collect our quads which were sat on top of each other :). I was just laughing at that point, it was a good ending to the day of a race that I knew I would never win, so I'm glad some laughs were had about it - the state of the gate left us in stitches when we went over (sorry guys!!).
After checking the results a few days later, it seems I actually came 5th - Barry had a slower first lap than me, and the other 2 runners up from the other semi-final did not complete their first lap. I was over the moon, what a result! Part luck, part flying ability, and 100% awesomeness!
I won't go into too much detail about the final, but Brett had unfortunately crashed into Francis as they were entering the gazebos, taking them both out. There was a little frustration from both parties initially, but racing is racing and it couldn't be helped - for the first half of the course they were side by side - it was amazing to watch. Chi ended up taking first place, followed by Jon Banton finishing up in 2nd - so congratulations to all 4!
Luke (BanniUK) also took the Fastest Lap of the day, even though he was sadly knocked out due to a dodgy Lipo in his knockout races.
As I said at the start, none of this would have been possible without the sponsors, organizers, volunteers and there rest of the team for putting the event on. For me, they did a superb job and it was extremely professional, and really stood out from all the other events, even from those watched online (Nationals, Worlds etc). They had produced in my opinion the best course I've seen at all so far (and with good reason, it took 9 hours to setup). I really hope they put on more events in the future so that more and more people can get involved in this wonderful hobby, and racing will really take off over the next 1-2 years.
Also, great thanks to Phil Upton, his photos throughout the day are fantastic, and can be found here.
I hope the rambling hasn't been too much, I doubt anyone has even got to here, but if you have then thanks, and hope you've enjoyed reading it. I realise there is currently no video footage - and I am guessing you are too. I didn't record any personally, but I have a couple of friends who had recorded DVR footage, so I will be obtaining those and hopefully making a video from it. If that's the case I'll post it up, and in all the usual places. :).