What? Club-level racing at Leamington Hobby Centre.
When? 9th April 2016
Where? Leamington Hobby Centre
Who? Some of the UK's fastest pilots, plus some first timers :)
I must admit when I heard LHC was the choice of venue for the Midlands racing event, I was reveling in the fact it's "only" an hour away, as most events are 2+ hours so it was a nice change from the usual :). I got there nice and early to help everyone set up and get the race started! The track was a big one, a big figure of 8 with some special stuff thrown in, and a few intricate turns for the Pro class.
The track all setup.
Race Control is setup with the pilot seating area ready for racing to commence.
We also had MakeItBuildIt turn up and provide a full array of spare parts - Phil stocks some great equipment and is a super nice guy so it was great to have the spares available on hand. I saw many people taking advantage of the great prices and no doubt repairing quads that suffered water damage from crashes and the rain.. :)
Briefing & Check-In
Many pilots spent a little time in the morning ensuring their VTX's were on the correct channel and everything was all OK. Race days can have some very unforseen consequences with all sorts of stuff failing, but it seemed like everyone had a working quad before we started, which doesn't always happen :) I know of a couple of people who were building their quads late into the night before the event, to the point where they had no sleep at all! Dedication at it's finest to make sure their quads are ready.
Eric running through the Insurance checks, Failsafe demonstrations and channel checking service with his RF Explorer. I love the additional VTX channel checking, a great idea that seemed to work well for most of the people I saw he was checking.
Once we'd finished signing in those who have not got their own transponders were given loan ones for the day, so they were being installed pointing in the correct direction for the sensors to detect their laps.
After the safety briefing we all posed for a couple of photos. A good selection of pilots turned up to the event, from the world star Luke Bannister to people who signed up as their first race event. The top 8 pilot heat consisted of Luke Bannister, Gary Kent, Tom Stanton, Brett Collis, Chi Lau, Francis Harris, myself and Aaron Bromfield. This was going to be an absolutely awesome race. I feel like I've come a long way in the past few months and I'm catching up to where I feel I should be. Luke and Gary are in a league of their own right now, but we can let them battle it out and the rest of us can battle it to the death :D
It wouldn't be a normal UK event if Luke wasn't there fixing something with his quad only minutes before the first race was about to start!
As tradition would have it, I always fluff up the practice heat (with Thunderdrone being the first ever event I managed to complete 1 lap nevermind a heat in the practice session!!). I'm not exactly sure what I did, but I know I ended up in the ground :D Martin had seen my quad go in and thought there was a load of water splashed up, so it was a very long 2 minutes waiting for everyone to finish in the hope some of my quad survived. We had had a lot of rain the night before so the ground was very wet even before all of the rain came down.
Luckily when I got over to the quad it was absolutely fine, tiny amount of water on one blade, otherwise bone-dry! :D I have backup Shrike quads anyway as you are probably aware, but if I can help it and not use them then it certainly saves a bit of money!
Now, with the usual pressure on, I needed to complete a whole heat, not just a whole lap. I think my first flight is always a bit sketchy, but that will be something to work on.
I feel like I need to prefix this by saying it's not the fastest flying, and it's not particularly the smoothest, but this was my second flight of the day, after the first one ended pretty badly. I was hoping to perfect the "270 degree" spin you see after the tunnel, and gradually pick up speed to where I was comfortable flying but didn't feel like I was going to crash. Sadly, due to the weather, this didn't happen!
But regardless of that, this was my best heat, and probably the most fun racing for me of the day. I decided to stagger my start a little because I didn't want to get clipped off the line and taken out immediately (usually by Luke *cough*). It certainly seemed to work, I got a good chase with Chi all the way through to the tunnel where I overcooked the sharp right hand turn, but continued to fly on. As I was flying around we dropped a few pilots, one at a time, until it was just me and Luke left in the race. Luke I believe crashed out just from a simple mistake on the third lap meaning all I had to do was finish at current pace which led me to winning the heat, and actually placing on the top of the board.
Sadly I didn't get to race any further due to the horrendous rain we had which plagued us with stops and starts throughout the day. Some flew in the rain and risked it but I personally didn't bother for the most part. I skipped my third heat, and on the 4th just decided "balls to it" and flew in the rain anyway - it was looking to be our last heat after looking at some incoming clouds so it was now or never.
As you can tell from the video, the rain wasn't too bad at the start, but then it started to become heavier and heavier. By the time I got my quad back, and ran to the tent with my groundstation it was absolutely pouring it down. Tom and Luke's quads both fell out of the sky due to water, but neither seem to be damaged after drying out.
This placed me overall at 10th place for the day, we had planned to go through to our final races, but we barely managed to finish qualifying. Regardless of the results (which were quite amusing), it was a great day out with some great pilots.
I say this a lot, but the thing that stands out to me in this hobby is the community - everyone is willing to help out regardless of what is at stake, everyone is friendly and it's a right laugh. I hope we stay like this for the foreseeable future, I know events with high cash prizes can tend to change this atmosphere a little, but even with Dubai last month everything has stayed great :)
And on that note, I'd also like to thank Daniel Simpson for taking some pictures throughout the day and allowing me to use them here. And of course it goes without saying, none of this would have even happened without the Rotor Racing guys, and special thanks to LHC for the venue, hopefully we can get another event there again with some nicer weather. I'll be sure to order some from Banggood ready for next event.. :)