What? 24 Pilot Race
When? 22nd May 2016
Where? Moira, Swadlincote, Leicestershire.
This has got to be the closest event proximity-wise to me that we've had so far, it's only just over an hour away which is awesome. LHC a few weeks back by Rotor-Racing was similar distance, but this is just a few minutes closer. It certainly beats the usual 3 hour drive down south meaning I can get up at a semi-reasonable time (6.30) :)
Today was going to be an interesting one; I received a replacement set of Emax Red Bottoms after having some pretty nasty failures on them a few weeks prior, and I had adjusted my rates on my KISS setup without any prior testing. If you've flown KISS at all you will know that while it feels great, but getting that perfect rate setup for racing is pretty tough. I'd been experimenting a little the week before and I was relatively close to what felt great, but not quite there. So this was going to be an interesting one, it was really going to be make or break with them, and with no prior testing, it all relied on them just working!
On arrival we were greeted with the course mostly setup (I got there pretty early around 8.15am - check-in is at 9am), and it looked like great fun. Immediately I could see it was much bigger than I had expected, and it dawned on me my lipos may not be able to provide enough power for the entire race! Practice and qualifying were planned to be 3 laps, whereas the semis and finals were going to be 4 laps.
With the few final touches of the track finished and other pilots starting to arrive we got checked in, validating our BMFA, paying our fees and demonstrating our failsafe was set correctly. I would say if you are reading this as a newbie into racing, or flying in general - always make sure your failsafe is set - I've seen it so many times now where nasty, nasty things have happened when receiver signal is lost!
Post-safety briefing saw open practice for whoever wanted it. We were already assigned video channels a few days before so it was just a case of queuing up in the appropriate chair and waiting for your go. I took heavy advantage of this and I think I got 3 packs through, learning the course as much as I could. Because of my worry earlier about not having enough battery, I removed the GoPro. After the first practice session all I could see in the top half of my camera was my GoPro mount, so I removed that also inbetween some of my practice sessions, and increased the angle. This was the first time I'd flown the Shrike in a LONG time without a GoPro, but it felt great. It took a few laps to get into the swing of things but quickly found myself picking up speed ready for qualifying. Considering I had done 3 majors changes to the quad before even flying it, and with no testing - it flew great!
When you're not flying goggles can now be used as a fashion accessory :D
Aside from spectators wondering over from the Canal Festival, some familiar faces came down to watch as well. Brett sadly could not fly due to having exam revision, and had sensibly left his quads at home to not have any distractions from that.
Groundstations were in abundance at this event, and when not in use we even had a designated area so that they did not block the pilot area for those not using them. Races like this made them quite useful - we used 200mW video transmitters which is quite high for most races now. Some pilots do not have 200mW so had to try and battle for video on their 25mW transmitters, which seemed to prove near impossible using the internal goggle modules, but actually most people had no issues when using them with groundstations due to the directional antennas kicking in and helping reduce that signal bleed from the other quads in the air.
Qualifying for me couldn't have gone any better, it was one of those events that just came together nicely. Unlike most other events, I'd managed to get some decent laps in practice, and kept the same consistency during qualifying, finishing all of my qualifying races completely and in 1st place. I'd now mostly got the hang of my "new" quad, and couldn't wait to get into the semi-final to race Elliot - he was looking extremely fast. Pretty much all of the qualifying races consisted of me, Elliot, Aaron and Lee constantly improving the fastest lap time, switching between all of us throughout each qualifying round.
Lee and Aaron were placed into Semi Final #1, and me and Elliot in #2. Lee's semi-final sadly didn't go to plan as he put one of his props backwards, as soon as the starting sound went off his quad spun into a frenzy on the ground while others fought their way to get into the Final. Aaron did a good job and battled with Martin to take 1st and 2nd place in that race, both advancing through to the final race.
In mine and Elliot's race, I think we arguably had the best race of the day. From the get go we were battling with each other, constantly switching positions between the gates, through the gates. We must have traded places at least 20 times throughout the 4-lap race, some of the battles were so close all I could see in my FPV camera at times was the back of his quad. In the end I just managed to pull ahead at the end of the last lap around 3 meters taking the win, but honestly it could have gone either way, and was probably the best race I've ever flown. Sadly, I didn't get any footage of it, and neither did anyone else :( but hopefully in the future we can have similar races. I tend not to record that much DVR nowadays - it seems to always go the way that as soon as I start recording I crash, so I'd just rather not risk it!
With the final 4 pilots advancing through to the finals we all could not wait to get our quads in the and battle it out for first place. We were a little saddened Lee did not make it into the finals because we were constantly bettering the fastest lap time, so would have loved to have got the chance to race him, but I cannot discredit Martin, because he's also super fast :)
The moment that starting sound went off we all powered full speed towards the corner, me and Elliot were neck and neck as we saw each other at the 2nd corner. I followed him around the rest of the track and onto the start gate where I managed to get a bit more speed and overtake. From that point on I didn't see him any further but believe he had crashed out and took a few seconds to regain himself and got back in the air, but by that point there was no chance of catching up. At the start of the 2nd lap I was 1 second ahead of 2nd place, in the 3rd lap 3 seconds ahead (of Aaron at this point), and into the 4th I gained a 6 second lead. Towards the start of my last lap I had somehow messed up the entry of one of the gates and ended up flying right into it, tumbling and cartwheeling all over the place. After a couple of seconds I tried to take off again, and to my surprise I had broken no props! A second or two of working out where I was in the track I set off again and saw Aaron just fly past. Someone behind me said to just go for it as I was so close so I went all out - a bit of a sloppy bit of flying but I went as fast as I could to try and catch up. There was just 2 corners left in it when I had his quad in my sights and overtook him just on the last corner, by that point I could not see anything but the finish line in my sights so just went full throttle and hoped for the best - I had began to get some battery sag from the hard pushing of the other laps and so I nearly hit the ground on entering the finish gate. As soon as I went through I quickly asked who had achieved what position as in my eyes I could not tell how close Aaron was behind me and it turned out I had scraped quite a lead in the final straight of around 6 or 8 meters.
So that was it! I'd managed to nail the last corner/straight and take 1st place, I could not believe it! Some very poor inverted hangtime finished off my pack for the day and we brought our quads in. What an epic race. Even the race before that was also completely awesome, to managed to crash, takeoff and then still grab 1st place was insane, I think everyone watching was gobsmacked at what had just happened, as was I!
With the dark clouds setting in we quickly ran through the final results and we were presented with our trophies for the event - my first one I must admit, though not my first win, it was cool to have something to put on the wall. I hope to get some more, as it looks a little lonely right now, but that's something to work on.. :)
So for me, the event was great, we missed all of the rain that was plaguing my lack of practice throughout the week, the event went super smoothly and I think everyone including the new spectators had a great time. Thanks to all of the Delta Hawks team for putting the event on, I hope to go to more DH events in the future to battle Elliot and others!
A special thanks to Adam Richardson and Philip Smith for the photos - without coverage of the day my blog posts would be very dull, so once again thanks to you guys for taking some throughout the day :)