Location? Little Harlington Model Flying Club, London
Who? 40 Pilots
When? 3rd October 2015.
What? 250 Pro & Sport Class Quad Racing
I was up late the night before updating Betaflight, there was a failsafe bug introduced which meant the motors would spin - not ideal! Luckily Boris had fixed it around 11pm the night before, so I quickly flashed it and validated failsafe was working again - without that I'd not be doing any flying!
Surprisingly nobody else I spoke to seemed to come across the issue, so they were either not running Betaflight, or were running Betaflight but not using SBUS for their receiver communication. This came as a bit of a shock, but hey that's just how things go.. :)
So we got given the track a couple of weeks before, it looked real nice - some speed to be had in a lot of places, and we also see the return of the tunnel that featured at Formula FPV. I know they had also increased the size of the gates by adding another 30cm dowel onto the existing structure for the gates - this wasn't so much of a concern to me after getting the practice in with BanniUK last week.
I arrived at the event feeling fresh, and surprisingly not nervous - perhaps due to the practice? We rolled up 4 at a time to get a few laps in before the qualifying began and to familiarize ourselves with the track. I had one practice and it felt good - I managed all 3 laps that I intended to do, had good lines and felt like I was not going too slow either. Many queued up for 2 or even 3 practices but I didn't want to push my luck - the quad felt good, the track felt good, and unlike Formula FPV, I had made it round all my intended laps without any crashes - I didn't want to jinx it if more than anything!
There was a slight change to the formatting of the event from Formula FPV - qualifying consisted of the usual 3 races and only the best 2 were used to determine the next stage. The next stage involved a "finals for all" type setting where the qualifying would be used to put you in your associated finals - this was nice and meant that every racer regardless of position got the same races in. The finals also consisted of 2 races - where both would be taken into account to create your overall position in both the final groupings and overall.
The first sets of qualifying as ever caused quite an upset - many racers didn't finish and crashed out before completing the race, and many also not completing a lap. In my heat (7), it was just me and Martin to complete the initial qualifying round - I had come in at 1 min 37 seconds, while Martin was at 1 min 50. This seemed pretty good as we were around as fast as each other at Formula FPV, so it echoed the usefulness of the gate practice the previous week. The second heat followed the same heat, we were both the only ones to finish in our heat, getting 1min 36 and 1min 45 respectively - we were both picking up speed but more importantly consistent and finishing the all-important races. At this point I was actually ranked 2nd in the whole group, with only Francis in my sights. Sadly I knew this would be short-lived - most of the "Robots" above me had crashed out at some point in their first or second qualifying event, but still put in a good time on the one they stayed in - so they only needed to finish the 3rd qualifying to gain their position above me.
The third heat came around and it was much of the same, I put in a 1 minute 35.00 exactly, and was this time the only person to finish from my heat. It certainly seems like I had gained the consistency and speed I was lacking at Formula FPV.
As I said earlier, the "Robots" - aka the ones who seem to be superbly fast, a league ahead of us - managed to get their third qualifying round in which meant I was placed 5th Overall - this is still a brilliant achievement for me, having now gained a spot above a couple of friends who I was matching at Formula FPV.
This meant I'd now be in the B finals, and due to qualifying 5th I was first in those finals - meaning I get the first place on the staggered start - not really an advantage as such because we start before the start gate - so the lap is not recorded until we pass it - but it stops some of the carnage at the first gate - something I was a little worried about having done so well so far.
The first race itself was a little disappointing for me - I had got a huge amount of interference from someone else's quad - someone who did not manage to start the race due to issues. Pretty much every 2 or 3 seconds it would flip my video onto his quad, and all I could see was grass - it was extremely off-putting, and there were many near crashes, but after a lot of verbal diarrhea (sorry Martin and Barry, probably quite distracting) and somehow managing to stay in the air, I had taken first place with a 1 minute 38 - not too far off what I had achieved in qualifying despite the issues. Second place was Martin at 1 min 54, with Barry only 4/10th's of a second off behind him. I realized I had quite a lead, and after knowing that I figured for the next race I need to try and go all out - because even though I'm ahead I want to push myself to try and match the lap times of those above (at this point they were getting around 24 seconds a lap, where as my fastest was 28 seconds).
The last race was the best - sadly our 4th racer had had enough and not wanted to race after the issues he was facing - it seems that was also the cause of my video issues (I imagine he was seeing similar to what I was) - so this time I really had chance to try and open up that lead gap a bit more. I pushed what I could safely do without risking any crashes and pulled a record time (for me) of 1min 25 seconds. I had also gained my fastest lap of 27.68 seconds so it showed that the practice had really paid of. Barry took second place with a time of 1min 48 with Martin again close behind. What a cracking race, that is the one race I can take away from the event and say I am truly proud of that. I went in thinking I was roughly the same as a couple of other pilots, but the practice as I said has clearly paid off, and I had stormed ahead.
I also now have my own gates courtesy of Gemfan (another post on that soon...), so I can only hope the lap times continue to increase as I focus on racing specifically.
Well, what an amazing event. From the pilots to the organizers, the course to the sponsors, everything was brilliant. We couldn't have asked for better weather either, considering it's now October. Eric and co did a fantastic job on the timing system again, hopefully we will have that fully automated next race and they can get onto flying and enjoying the rest of the event. Align-Trex.co.uk also came, putting on some brilliant 3d Heli displays for us while we had downtime and breaks etc. And of course I-Drone.me for coming along and helping out users who had broke or forgotten items - I know there were quite a few from both camps, so brilliant to have the ability to still fly on the day. And thanks to Phil Upton again for the photos - without him I'd have a very boring blog that's for sure. I sadly did not get any video footage (if I turn on the GoPro I will crash haha), but next event I will just turn it on anyway!
From my own point of view, I completely accomplished what I had intended to do - gain the confidence and fly with confidence, and the consistency required to position well, while maintaining a decent speed to get in the positions I wanted. I couldn't be happier winning B finals, and hope in the coming events I can make it into A finals and show what I really have to offer :).