When? 19th - 21st August 2016
Where? Tesco Country Club, Cheshunt
What? FormulaFPV - BFPVRA Qualifying Event
Who? 70+ pilots battling for that #1 spot.
Formula FPV back in 2015 was the first event I had been to. I got in after the deadline had closed, and took someone elses space who had to drop out only a few days before. I was new to racing, I was new to events, I didn't know anyone. But I went anyway! From then on, I've been to most race meets since because they're just epic and I like competing, so it was an obvious choice to go again. Formula FPV 2016 was scheduled to run 12 Sport class pilots, and 36 in the Pro Class. That didn't stay small for long when other pilots got added into the mix. On arrival at the event we ended up around 66 Pro pilots, so quite a large increase in what we had previously known. It was a bit of a worry as the forecast was NOT looking good, so I just hoped we could get the races in that we needed to!
Pilots ran through check-in, VTX power checking has now become a new but mandatory feature which helped find 3 VTX's way beyond the power limits enforced for the weekend. It just goes to show while it takes longer for the check-in's to complete, it's entirely worth it. The usual insurance and failsafe without any props on was also checked.
With the event open the public (spectators could come and watch the action for a small fee) warning signs were positioned all down the flight line to ensure we had nobody stepping out when they shouldn't.
Because the guys at Formula FPV wanted it to be a BFPVRA qualifying event, the course has to change from last year because of the rule that stipulates the course cannot be known or flown before-hand. With this in mind, the tower that was originally just for free style pilots ended up becoming part of the course and adding to the complex of the track. The idea was to fly in from the left through the top section, down to a flag on the far right, before doing a split-S through the top of the back high gate and back under it, before taking the sweeping bend in the lower section of the scaffolding. A lot of us were a little confused as to how exactly that would work but once we'd watched a few people do it from our own goggles it all made sense.
The idea itself was simple, the main issue was we had 20mph winds with upwards of 40mph gusts! They just so happened to be blowing from the right to the left as well so as you went into the corner, it was pushing everyone right into the scaffolding situated on the left-hand corner. I got lucky and actually didn't destroy any of my quads, though I know some people unfortunately killed their only quad on their first run - a bit gutting to say the least!!
Carlos came with his standard issue uniform for the race!
Richard was pleasantly mellow considering a near-death experience with some scaffolding that had blown over from the winds right near the campsite, landing all but a meter next to him. I hope he put his lottery numbers on because he'd have probably won!
Rain was a HEAVY feature throughout the day, dampening our spirits a little from a severe lack of flying. The atmosphere was probably one of the lowest we've had at an event due to delays in check-in's and rain meaning we hadn't started our first races until just after midday, a bit of a sore when we had arrived around 8.30am! With that being said the torrential rain could not be stopped so the show had to go on!!
With the rain subsiding for a little we carried on racing as much as we could in between the heavy downpours.
We also got to see Francis' new crazy quad design - something which confused many people! A lot of the hype train currently is swaying towards elongated X frames, and Francis came up with an excellent way of using that space while maintaining a good centre of gravity by seating the battery on top but also as low as physically possible.
Tom and Luke took role reversals with Luke stealing Tom's chair, and Tom stealing Luke's cap!
Did I mention the rain? It rained quite a bit I would have you know! Phil looks about as happy as we were!
Andrew and Craig were brought in to commentate for the weekend and provided great entertainment bouncing from each other during the down time. Aside from these guys we also had Timour helping out by running the giant LED screen we had for the event. This meant we had a full 6-way split of racers live from their FPV cams, something which is epic for spectators.
We had a bit more rain throughout the day but we managed to get in a round of practice where I had managed to do 4 laps comfortably without destroying my quad on the tower of doom. After that we also managed to get 2 more rounds of qualifying in before around 8pm where we decided enough was enough and we went for food. My first round of qualifying I made a silly mistake and crashed out before doing my first lap, I had gone too low out of the tunnel and just skimmed on the ground. Sadly I landed upside down so could not take off again.
On my second round of qualifying I managed to bag a couple of laps in before not applying enough power on the exit of the death tower which meant plunging into the ground and sadly I landed upside down, unable to recover.
There was some night flying but not much due to the awful weather we had. The FormulaFPV guys had even setup a full night course so it was a bit of a shame to miss it but not much we can do with the torrential rain we had. I think we were all just praying that it would hold off for tomorrow because otherwise we'd not have enough hours in the day to finish the race! And at this point I was around 20th in qualifying so I needed to get a bit higher up for the knock out stages just in case others managed to do more laps because only 24 of the top pilots would go through to the knockout stages.
With Day 1 over and Day 2 just starting I had to stay focused and build up those laps. As I said earlier luck had not been on my side for the rounds of qualifying so far, only bagging 2 laps in 2 rounds. Considering I had done 4 in practice I had to just remain positive and remember I could do it, ignoring any more Luke encounters that many potentially take place!
While the rain seemed to have disappeared for the majority of the day, the wind was still here pounding on all of the track equipment! Sadly for this gazebo it was not strong enough to survive and we had to remove it from the course! The wind had fully bent all of the legs and just completely destroyed it! Luckily this was not part of the Pro Track, only part of the Sport class, so it was just one thing less to fly through if they wanted to.
Other casualties included the big tunnel which nearly ended up flat on the ground as well! Some extra string to stake it down and carefully placed pegs meant it remained up for the rest of the day without issue.
On the downtime we had Helicopter demos from Russell Cleaver from Align-Trex.co.uk, as well as the Rotor Racing Display Team taking to the skies who added some smoke demos with quads flying behind it trying to stick into a close formation. The track was not flown so that no possibly gains could be taken from the demo flying. Interestingly the combination of the blue and the orange smoke mixing just produced white! We did manage to get the blue to show ok as we had just ran 2 blue smoke grenades the second time.
Joining us from over the pond we had a special guest with us - Alex Greve of Video Aerial Systems! Alex has been a huge star in developing and bringing to market new antennas for our video reception, and has nailed it time after time again. There's a ton of us in the UK who support him and his company. I've spoken to him many times on Facebook so to actually meet him was great!
We also had a guest appearance from the Mayor who came down to watch some of the racing and see what it was all about :) I hope they got a good feel for what it is we do, and why we love the sport!
So, back to the racing again... :D We had 2 more qualifying heats to get through today, I knew I just had to bank the laps to stay on those leaderboards as that is where I needed to be. In my first qualifying run I took it slow and steady trying to keep it smooth and make as few mistakes as possible. I'd manage to bag 4 laps and not crash which was a great result, pushing me into around 11th place as others had done exactly the same.
For the fourth qualifying round my intention was just to do the same. I had got up to the second lap taking it very smooth and steady but sadly got hit from behind by Luke going into the death tunnel.
From Luke's DVR we can see he's shaven my prop clean off from the hub! No wonder I couldn't take off again :( after rolling a few times Luke then took off again and did a few more laps. He even hit a flag on his last lap and still managed to continue round! In the words of Luke - #damson!
What's even more funny is he said he was going to hit me before we starting this heat and it turns out he wasn't joking!
After managing to do another 2 laps in my qualifying I'd made it into 11th place in Qualifying, just under snap bang in the middle. Marc and Leo were in my heat and I knew I had to do some decent laps to try and stay ahead of them as they had been performing well through the qualifying heats.
As soon as the starting Klaxon went Marc had got a great start and punched out ahead with me and Leo following closely behind We were all within a second of each other going around the course and into the second lap until Marc made a mistake and crashed out, taking him out of the race. Once me and Leo knew he was out we settled our pace down a little to remove any risk of mistakes, it was easy to do with the high winds and ended up doing 3 more laps with Freddie and matt Tuck not far behind which meant Leo, myself and Freddie made it into the Semi finals.
Going into the semi finals I was a little nervous. Brett had made it into my semi finals along with Richard Whelan, Russell Cleaver, Ben Blackburn and Phil Trifunovic. So I knew I had to keep the pace up in order to go through, and definitely not make any mistakes! As soon as we set off I manageed to get into a 2 second lead going into the second lap and kept my lap times similar. In fact, my first 3 of 4 laps were within 200th's of a second within each other, so I had managed to nail that consistency. Actually going into the second lap every pilot except for me and Richard had crashed out, so we were left to battle it out for that first spot. It didn't make any difference as we were both into the finals regardless but we still had fun banking the laps in and getting more familiar with the course. Brett's quad unfortunately would not arm, and it was only after around a minute and a half and cycling the power on his Taranis that allowed him to arm, but by that point it was too late.
Here's my run from the Semi Finals:
Warren, Luke and Leo had also won their semi-finals, being the only people to complete all 4 laps and aced it through to the finals. Warren was on fire during these heats, I was watching his thumbs and he was so smooth considering how much he was shaking! I reckon it was not having Martin ahead or behind him that made the difference here, his arch nemesis did not make it to the event :).
4 of 6 quads in the finals were Shrike's! Me and Luke were running the new V2 200's, with Warren and Leo running the V2 185's.
The finals was a good but frustrating result for me. We were all stacked together during takeoff through the first high gate over the tunnel and around the sweeping bend. Just after I was in 2nd place at that point but had severely messed my line up for entry into the tunnel so at the last moment ploughed up above it, meaning I'd taken a big penalty as I came back around to retake it. As the lap times show I lost 10 seconds on the first lap alone, but ploughed through picking up speed to try and regain some places. I had overtaken a couple of quads at this point and thought I was doing ok, regaining composure and bagging some more laps. I overtook another quad with green props which I thought was Leo on the third or fourth lap which meant I thought I was in 2nd and so after going through the finish I had a sigh of relief. That was, until my spotter Alex Greve informed me I'd taken third place not the 2nd I thought I had! Nevermind, it was still a cracking race and I am glad I managed to do what I did considering my mess up at the start. The lap times were an easy 20% behind Luke, but still a step ahead of the rest of the competitors in the finals so had I not made the mistake it may have been a different result, but I only have myself to blame regarding that! :D It was a great final that everyone had managed to finish which can be a rarity now-a-days so that was cool to see.
Luke grabbed his giant trophy and celebrated yet another victory! There's no stopping this guy, that is unless Brett or Gary are around at current.. :D but on a serious note Brett has picked up some serious pace in the last couple of weeks of training, I thought I used to be on roughly the same level as him and Tom, but he's stepped up his game and is on or approaching the same level as Luke, with only Gary ahead of that (sorry Luke I think Gary is a little faster!!). It's impressive to see that even with the giant speed differences between some pilots, even with the very very top few there's still speed to be gained that just comes from more practice.
The blog post is a little shorter than I normally do, mainly because I'm still recovering from the flying in the iSeries tournament at the Insomnia Gaming Festival. It was the weekend directly after, and because it started on the Thursday I just didn't have enough time to write this up as I had some serious quad prep to do. With that being said the Sunday made up for the lack of racing on Saturday, and I think we all had a good time in the end. It was great to meet some of the Spanish pilots that came over such as Lumpyx who I have battled greatly in the sim leaderboards, and the rest of his friends who came over.
A big big thanks go to Timour for running the screen, even just 5 minutes in he already saw improvements to make for what he was doing next time, we're at a point where being a spectator is not just about watching some quads fly around a field with no clue of who is leading etc. We're still not quite there yet with making it super spectator friendly, but each and every event gets closer and closer! Behind the scenes we had Clinton Roberts who developer the code that talked to the race control system while Dom Robinson put all of the equipment together so that it would all work! Without these two as well we'd have none of this :)
A big thanks to all of the pilots who attended and helped out during Formula FPV. I say the same thing every time but that's just because I really mean it - what makes FPV racing great is the community. Without that it'd just be a few guys who don't really talk to each other competing against each other. The banter and support that the community provide on a race day means that I struggle to justify not coming to races, even if I have other commitments on!!
Yes yes, another Rotor-Racing thanks. But honestly, without these guys the UK scene would suck, and I'm not even kidding. These guys put so much blood sweat and tears into making the racing as good as it can be it goes without saying that these guys are awesome. There's a lot of other people who are involved and part of Rotor-Racing, but this was the only photo I could find with Eric and Craig in! Terry, Phil, Chi, and all of the other staff who help out really get us racers into gear and churn out so many races per hour I think any other race organisation would be taking notes had they been there. Despite the rain, wind and slowness at the start of Saturday we still pulled through and got all of the racing that we needed to do in.
Thanks again to Julian Whitfield for the photos :)