When? 3rd July 2016
Where? Breedon on the Hill, Leicestershire.
What? UK Championships Qualifying Event!
Who? 32 Pilots competing for that 1st place trophy!
We've not had many QE (Qualifying Events) for the British Championships so far, so it was great to see Richard Bloxam and the guys had stepped up to provide one that was relatively central making it super accessible to most pilots. We had people from all over the country turn up, with some familiar long timers and some new faces too - a great mix for the event.
The last Delta Hawks event ran smoothly and was super enjoyable to fly, with some crazy battles between myself and Elliot in the semi's through to me crashing and managing to overtake Aaron for 1st place in the A finals, we knew that today was going to be all about who can knock each other off the Podium this time.
We all arrived pretty early, the location was great - a huge open field that had been mowed - it looked to be part of a Golf range so you can imagine how good the grass is. The first thing we noticed was the track - it looked rather large. There was a bit of heated discussion post-race on Facebook so I won't go crazy, but it was a little larger than we had faced before, even larger than the previous Delta Hawks :) I nearly didn't charge my 1800mAh 4s the night before, but I was certainly glad I did now!
With registrations open we all started checking in, ensuring insurance was valid and our failsafes worked - the usual drill :) the weather looked to be hit and miss - we arrived around 8.30 and the sky was barely cloudy, but the clouds started setting in a little - a bit worrying! At least this time I had all my quads working prior to checking in - no dodgy issues here for once!
The usual safety briefing occurred outlining the event format; "round by round" scoring based on a total of 4 qualifying rounds - all of which will be counted for the final scores. The finals will then be ran as a "finals for all" so everyone will be placed in their corresponding final based on qualifying positions. This meant everyone was really just racing themselves and just had to be consistent for the entire qualifying.
Phil at makeitbuildit.co.uk was on-site with his awesome selection of spares from his shop. It really does make a huge difference when people like Phil come down and support the hobby - even those who didn't need to buy anything at this event had shown their appreciation. Phil also runs a giant TV with split screen of the action so it's a great way of watching the races without a pair of goggles - something used by many onlookers who were visiting other parts of the site. He's been at pretty much every single event I can remember in the past few months, and it doesn't go unnoticed!
Craig Narcisse aka @DroneLondon travelled up from down south to commentate for the day after he found his niche at Weston Park - something we all appreciate both during the racing and during the down time. It adds so much to the event :) he provides great running commentary and a bit of banter when we're waiting to race.
With practice starting not long after the check-in we got to grips with iLaps and ensured all of the transponders were working correctly during practice - it was a new system for the Delta Hawks guys but they got on with it well. I went into my first heat with a 1500mAh lipo just to test the water and see if it was enough to do the deed. I made it round the track I think completing 5 laps ok, but when I went to retrieve the quad the lipo was stupidly warm and I had drained a large amount (the Taranis had been moaning at me for a while about my mAh consumed), so with that in mind I decided to skip any further 1500's and go straight into 1800's because at that point it was my first flight on the course and there would be a huge amount of time we can make up per lap - so they were only going to get warmer!
I was also essentially flying on a new quad flight controller that had been tuned in half a pack (moved from KISSFC to DTFc) - I found the Roll axis to be super sloppy to the point it nearly caused a few crashes. With no practice rounds left I just had to set some increased PID's and hope they would work for the rounds to come.
I used this 16,000mAh to field charge, but I did jokingly contemplate using it for a heat to see how many laps I could get from it :).
With the practice heat going ok (as in I didn't crash!) we moved straight into the qualifying heats, where me and Tom had switched to 1800mAh as a safety precaution - we knew 5 laps was possible, but I think with 1800mAh 6 laps might be doable as there's a large % of people who will be able to complete the 5 laps so it's all about getting that 6th lap, or the fastest 5 to get into the A finals.
There were a few collisions during some of the qualifying rounds, with both other quads racing and obstacles on the track. The wind started to pick up during the day which blew straight down the start line straight - you didn't really need to accelerate much down the here to pick up insane speeds, quite a few hit the start gate at some very very nasty speeds, but seemingly not that much damage was caused to quads. A lucky escape :)
Back onto the other type of collisions, in qualifying round 2 I had managed to miss one of the gates (I was in the lead of our group), and I turned back around to retake it - and as I did I kinda dropped down to approach the gate, with Elliot coming up behind me. He had correctly lined up for the gate and so was travelling at probably twice the speed I was and he smashed into the rear of my quad.
We had a minor exchange (LOL), which resulted in both of us tumbling on the ground a lot. Despite Elliot having 2 props damaged and a bent metal standoff now looking like a right angle, and me having absolutely no damage (I don't know how I got away with that), we both actually took off again and continued the race! For some reason my quad took around 15 seconds to arm (or at least it felt like it), and I managed to squeeze the 5th lap in just in time.
So with half of the qualifying rounds complete so far it was looking good. I wasn't placed at the top of the table as I wasn't pushing it, just ensuring I stayed consistent to bank the laps in as we needed to (I'm not keen on this format as it doesn't really reward people for going flat out and actually racing). I think at that point I was scoring as 2nd or 3rd in the table, with Leo and Aaron just above due to having faster heat times.
Heat 3 brought its own set of challenges - I decided to start going for this 6th lap. I put in some good and consistent laps and thought I had actually done 6 laps in this heat, but my spotter and iLaps sadly counted 5. The 1800's were even starting to struggle to provide power long enough for the race, this one came down with around 10% left in the pack, and I ended up putting more mAh back into the lipo than it's rated capacity!
With the 3rd round complete I was still holding 2nd place in the rankings, but there was close competition for the top 6 with 7 overall pilots making 5 laps in most of their heats, so the pressure was on. After a potential 6 lap race I knew I wanted to go for it, nobody had done it so far and my lap times were reducing each time we went out as we adapted to the course and learnt where the gates were.
I don't tend to record footage, but this time I actually bothered to and luckily I recorded it when it counted. For the remaining qualifying heat I just decided to go for it - it wasn't full throttle because the lipo just wouldn't last it, but it was tactically managed to try and get around the track as fast as possible without drawing too many amps. I had some smooth racing going on in the 4th heat where I just kept bagging the laps; lap after lap, and managed to get through the start finish a few seconds before the 2 minute warning to finish your laps went off. The last lap was certainly interesting, the lipo was sagging really badly at this point where any sort of high amp throttle would be a risky move and at risk of either video wipeout or just dropping out of the sky. I did however manage to nurse it around the course one final time to bag that 6th lap and take both the only 6th heat of the day and also stole the fastest lap of the day from Aaron and Leo, hitting a 20.5s lap.
The first half of the video below shows the 6 lap heat, and the second half shows the final so if you want to view it in order then you'll have to pause it for when you read the next segments!
With the 6 laps bagged in the final heat that put me at the top of the leaderboard for qualifying, so I had made it into the A finals. There were some other great pilots in A finals, Elliot had managed to get knocked out due to a bad run, but everyone was where they deserved to be based on their consistency!
Going into the finals was an interesting one - we were presented with 4 laps races - so kind of different to the 2 minute heats we were used to. Based on our current runs in practice and qualifying we knew that we'd be flying less, and were therefore able to push it a bit harder on our packs. I decided to stick with the 1800mAh - it had ran "ok" for 6 laps at manageable throttle, so my theory was it would survive 4 laps of intense throttle going all out.
With that in mind we all lined up ready to take off and as soon as that 10 second claxton sounded we all shot off like rockets. The first couple of corners were extremely close, with Leo leading followed by me closely behind and Tom just behind me as well. We had made it into the top section of the track where the gap started closing even more and towards the entry into the second gate on the hairpin I had managed to overtake Leo for first place. This continued for a lap and a bit gaining a bit of a lead (around 3-5 seconds), I kept that throttle pinned to the top of the Taranis as much as I could, and sadly it backfired a little. On the chicane after the finish I had quite a dip in the quad and I was already at full throttle so recovery was impossible at that point. I hit the deck at some speed and rolled a few times. Quads flew past as I finally settled upright and hoped that I could re-arm to take off again. A few seconds passed and I was up in the air again fighting for whatever position I could take at this point. I flew even harder than I just had been in order to catch up, and I think I overtook 1 or 2 people at this point into my third lap and into the 4th. I'd seen a quad just in front of me and heard Craig saying that Tom was approaching the final gate so kept pushing harder and harder, taking more risks and not slowing down on the corners at all. Sadly I got a bit ahead of myself and clipped the second to last gate at the top with my antenna as I approached it a little too high and couldn't quite dip quick enough. I got shot high into the air and assumed I was out so pretty much disarmed as soon as possible, however it sunk in that actually the quad had levelled fine and I could have continued! Sadly instead I just watched the quad tumble out of the air at speed and land outside of the course into some pretty long grass! I tried again to take off but it was stuck in thick grass so not chance to move it! With everyone else passing the finish without issue aside from Aaron who had a mid-air collision, that ended with me bagging 5th place.
I'm not sure which crash caused it, but after a little searching for my quad we found a bit of a banana lipo. It was hard to get a picture of how disformed the lipo was, but it was twisted as well as bent, basically scrap now. It was one of the ones I had used in qualifying so I think I had over-discharged it previously causing damage, and that's why it had failed me in the finals. I ended up placing 5th as Aaron was out right at the start which was a decent result, just a bit of a shame to not get that chance to race for the whole time. I must admit I was a little disappointed with the Bonka's, they're not cheap lipos, and in all honesty they struggled to do what I needed them to do. Granted, the course was "too fast" and allowed it, but I didn't expect it to fail so quickly (it was brand new!!).
I recommend you also checkout this amazing video log from Tom Stanton - his take on the day - I found it a brilliant watch and I'm sure you guys will too :)
With that being said, I came home with fastest lap of the day and most laps of the day - something I can be proud of, despite the unfortunate events of the finals. We all had a great day and everyone was pleased with how it all went, all of the finals were great fun to watch once it became about full on racing against each other rather than racing against themselves, and they brought a ton of excitement to the end of the day.
A special thanks to Simon who was stuck in race control all day on a new system they didn't get to fully test due to some transponder issues the weekend before - he ended up doing a great job considering the task at hand and it went remarkably smoothly considering. Lap timing adds so much to an event for me, it makes the difference between just a fun fly and a serious competition. We all go for the community aspect of racing, but we're all also there to compete against everyone else.
Big thanks to all of the pilots and most of the crew in this shot - a great days flying with some perfect weather in a really good location for flying.
Thanks again to Philip Smith for the photos provided for the blog :)