When? 7th & 8th May 2016.
Where? Longhill Sports Centre & Hidden Valley, Rottingdean, Brighton.
What? International Drone Day festival, demos and Team Relay Race!
Who? 16 teams of 4 pilots - 64 total pilots racing for a whopping £1500 prize pool.
If you had read anything recently about Miniairshow then you are probably aware that qualifying for the team relay on Sunday was now no longer required - the idea was that 16 teams would race on Sunday, meaning that if the full 32 team entries signed up we would have to cut the teams down by half. As it stood 16 teams actually signed up so this made it pointless to qualify so most of Saturday was actually just a fun fly day with 3 areas - an indoor dark LED-lit course, an outdoor demo area by the trade stands and another fun setup could as a time trial (2 man per race) to win a bottle of Champagne at the end of the day for the fastest lap.
Towards the end of the day Rotor-Racing performed a mini demo for the crowd and participants featuring close proximity racing and smoke machines attached to quads. I stepped in for Tom Stanton who could not make the event due to University exams, and am now pleased to announce I am also now part of the Rotor-Racing display team :).
During the demos we had a whole host of different quads (all DJI flavour) take to the air to film the space below.
Align-Trex also brought in their display team to provide a fantastic 3d helicopters display demo for the crowd, people looking in awe of the sheer power these monster 700-size aircraft have and the sounds they produce.
Towards the end of the day saw a mini freestyle competition where a whole host of pilots took to the field in atn attempt to wow the crowd to win that bottle of champagne. There was much skill shown and the crowd awarded the victory to Carlos, also known as Ali G in his spare time :D
With race day commencing at the planned start of 9 we headed down after breakfast at the B&B around 8.30. After some discussions last night we knew the original track layout was not going to work due to huge growths of farm crop in the field most of the track was based in. We helped out as much as we could before setting off to the hotel for food and to check-in before the close time.
With that being said we turned up and helped set the remaining items of the track up and it looked great. A few of us in my team were a little worried as to the size of it and how many laps we were going to get from our lipos before having to change out to the next member, so we just had to discuss rough tactics on changes and make sure we could perform them as fast as possible to reduce any downtime on the track.
A fair race
Being the first team relay race in the UK this brought in it's own set of rules, regulations and challenges faced in FPV racing. There's a few points worth mentioning that I think were really great ideas and actually probably overlooked, but meant the day was ran super smoothly.
The listing above shows the race schedule of all the teams. You'll notice the team colours and order switches. The colour of the team name is used for video frequencies and switches most races so that everyone gets their fair share of the video frequencies and cannot blame any race technicalities or issues on favoritism.
You will also notice the order of each team is different per heat as well - meaning that everyone gets to experience all of the different pit locations as we go further down the race track - again to stop any preferential treatment and give everyone a fair go. This was actually quite important on the day as the top corner of the race track was quite bad video as you got towards the end of the pits, so splitting this pit area between all teams made perfect sense.
And finally, 5 heats was chosen so that every team gets to race every team - due to how the scoring works this is a fairly important point so that some teams do not race always the fastest teams, but equally they do not always race the slowest teams. We did not sadly get to run 5 heats (most of us were shattered by the end of the 4, and with delays), but more on that further down.. :)
The pits were separated by a netted wall and had designated flags so you could see which pits to enter when you were to bring your quad in for a pilot change. Chairs and a safety barrier, as well as diversity groundstations were provided to the pilots so they could be as comfortable as possible.
With an hour or two of delays for final track preparations the racing had begun and we were up pretty quickly, being in the second heat we didn't get much chance to watch any live footage via the goggles to get a good feel of the track. This is something I always try and do because even if you're not flying, seeing it from the eyes of a quad really helps to learn the track and work out corners and navigating all of the corners or complex areas of the course. Some spectators brought their own goggles with them to tune into the racing as well as the guys actually having a giant screen with a 4-way split so you could see all of the racing as it happens.
With our first heat done and dusted, we felt good. All of us had made it around, completing at least 3 laps each and we raced the full 10 minutes until we were told to finish our final lap. This for me was the most nerve-wracking flight I've ever had - the intensity of the pressure when you have 3 other members counting on you to not crash is just insane. I had some very sketchy laps which involved around 5 re-attempts of going through the gates as I had just not aligned myself up for them - probably too busy thinking about not letting the team down than planning ahead!
The second run didn't go so good for me - I was the second pilot to go out again as we decided to keep the order the same as the first run (Francis, me, Lee then Gary). I didn't even make the first lap - going up to the top of the high flag I was following a quad up getting ready for the overtake and as I went for it I saw him crash into a flag (and actually heard it), I think this must have thrown me off because I then misjudged the gate slightly and clipped the top of it. I'm not really sure what happened after that but my battery somehow ejected and I lost full power to the quad as they tumbled down the hill in different directions. We had to scramble Francis back into the air who managed to get in another 4 laps for our heat and we ended up doing OK considering. With that in mind we still managed to make 7 laps despite the mess up but now the pressure was really on. My worst fears of letting the team down had now become a reality and that was a bit of a worry.
Moving into the third heat we changed up the pilot order slightly as we had noticed we could better utilize Gary's insane speed towards the start of the heat, so I switched with Gary and moved into last racer. We had noticed in our current runs we were not using that much battery power as we had first thought so we decided to also increase our laps per pilot up to 4 also, so that we could reduce as much pits downtime as possible. Due to time constraints the race heats were also shortened down to 8 minutes to try and get through the races as quickly as possible without running out of time. This heat went very well for us and I think we bagged in 11 laps in 8 minutes, beating our original 13 laps in 10 minutes by quite a margin which was pretty nice!
At the end of round 3 it was announced that we were in the lead (Team Fast-Forward), with 23 points, followed behind by 2 teams joint-second on 20 points.
Due to us not making up any time during racing it was called by Race Control that we would only run 4 of the 5 races and base the final leaderboard from that due to it being so late in the day which seem to get agreed by all of the teams. Our plan of for this heat was much of the same - do 4 laps again and see if we can get any more if possible. Francis went first again scoring another 4 solid laps with Gary continuing the trend right behind him. Unfortunately Lee suffered video issues similar to what I experienced and crashed out during his second or third lap so I quickly took to the air as the 4th pilot and got another 2 laps for the team and recovered us nicely. This felt great to end the day on a good couple of solid laps which felt relatively fast but regained the confidence I lost from crashing out in heat 2.
Once we had finished Heat 4 we were presented with a decision by race control after gathering round as we learned that the points difference between 1st and 2nd place was still a 3-point difference, potentially meaning that a final race could change the standings. It was called to a vote where you walked up the hill if you wanted a final race, or stayed downhill if you didn't want another race.
I think the split was down to 30 people wanting to not race any more (mainly due to it being late in the day and already past finish time), versus 27 people wanting one more race. With that in mind we did not race any further and packed up most of the track before we (Team Fast-Forward) were crowned the winners of Miniairshow, with HillBilly HotQuads taking 2nd place and Team Backwards in 3rd place.
It's never a normal blog post without a video so here's my take on what the weekend offered for the spectators, pilots and the sponsors. It was an absolutely epic event in unreal locations and provided such a different format to racing it was a really cool change of racing. The extra nerves did not phase most pilots, but technical difficulties plagued some heats for teams which I think we all experience - but that's the part and parcel of quad racing.
I personally want to thank Rotor-Racing, Hidden Valley, and all of the sponsors who made it possible. There was a LOT of hard work and dedication that went into producing the event, particularly as it spanned 2 locations, 2 days, and a whopping 64 pilots in a never been done before team race. Considering the challenges we faced, I think it couldn't have gone any better. We also got some absolutely insane weather - I'm not sure on the actual temperatures but I think the Sunday must have been around 26-28c which is unreal for UK weather at this time of year. I also want to thank Phil Upton for providing the photography for my blog post, but also for everyone out there who couldn't take any pictures themselves (like me) - remembering the event with these photos is priceless.
I hope we have more team events in the future, they provided a ton of new challenges that made the format super fun and exciting to be a part of. And of course to win it is absolutely fantastic. Go Team Fast-Forward, bring on any more team events and just general events in the future...!! :)