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GO FAST AND TURN LEFT (and left and left and left etc)

Amongst the many and varied modelling disciples to be found in the RAFMAA today there exists a small (but perfectly formed) group who fly Control Line models. In fact there are some who only fly this type of model. As with R/C models there are many and various classes encompassing Speed, Aerobatics, Combat, Carrier, Scale and Racing models. Foremost in the racing classes is F2C which is the Formula One division (For the very old and bold read Class A).

Late last year I was approached by Chris Barker (all round RAFMAA C/L God) with the invitation to team up with him as pitman/mechanic with a view to competing in both the European and World championships as part of the BMFA British Team. Having dabbled in various racing classes over the years, I was initially shy of this move as in most respects this was going to be a very steep learning curve. However after some thought and a good kick up the a**e, (thanks Paul) I took up Chris’s offer which is roughly about the time that the hard work and sweat began.

For those unacquainted with team racing the idea is to cover a set distance in the fastest possible time. So as to complicate things, certain restrictions concerning model dimensions, engine and fuel capacity are thrown into the mix. In the simplest of terms, in the case of F2C the engines are 2.5cc diesels with the available fuel capacity being limited to 7cc. The racing heats, which involve three teams in the same circle, are staged over one hundred laps which with the length of lines that the models are flown on equates to a distance of ten kilometres. Of course the fuel restriction means that the model has to be refuelled, usually twice. This is where the “team” bit comes from. Prior to the start of the races the teams are allowed ninety seconds in which to warm the engines. The engines are then stopped for thirty seconds after which the race is started. At the start of the race the pitmen who are standing have to start and release the model whereupon the pilots work starts. With three pilots in the centre and model rotating once every 1.8 seconds (120-125mph) they have to be nimble upon their feet. Dependent upon the range of the model (the distance the engine will run on a tank of fuel) the pitman with call the pilot in. At this point the pilot will cut the engine and land the model running it into the pitman’s hand.


The pitman catches the model, refuels it, restarts the engine and releases the model. In order to ensure the shortest amount of time on the ground the model are refuelled via a pressurised system mounted on the arm of the pitman This then continues until the required distance is covered. Prior to the race you will have run/flown a few tanks in order to obtain a good engine setting using the available engine adjustments, fuel, and compression, and cooling air. During the race of course with ambient temperature variations and race conditions (opposition!), some engine adjustment may be required.

In order to extract the best performance familiarity with the equipment and sound team work is required. In our case this commenced with a day practising on a cleared car park at RAF Digby, a day at RAF Odiham, followed by trips to Barton Model Club in order to race with other UK teams. With the European Camps being held in Bulgaria during August Chris and I visited Piennes in France over the period 7 – 13 Jul 15. This was to attend both the Dutch and French F2C National Grand Prix events and bring me further up to speed with competing against some of the very best that Europe has to offer. To keep us on the straight and narrow we travelled with our respective partners driving down between various French ferry worker strikes to the town of Landres in North Eastern France. To my eyes the site at Piennes is somewhat of an eye opener. A well laid out site with concrete circles for Speed, Aerobatics and Team Race. Further grass circles were also available for Combat etc. Also on site was a campsite with all the required toilet facilities, a club house, bar and various storerooms. Check on GOOGLE Earth, Piennes, and you will see it. There are several of these sites throughout France which does tend to raise the thought maybe Wellington wasn’t such a British hero after all.

Wednesday was allocated as a training day during which we tested and flew various models so as to decide with ones with which to enter. All the usual problems were encountered along with a few down to my inexperience. Chris had previously arranged to buy a ready built model from one of the top French competitors which was absolutely beautiful and flew as if on rails. This was then fitted with a reliable engine for entering in the Dutch competition. On the Thursday the Dutch Grand Prix commenced. Each team was allowed a five minute Slot in the Flying circle so as to obtain a flying setting for the day before being called forward to fly in your respective heats. As a first time competitor at this level I must admit to a certain “buzz” and sense of pride as each team is announced over the PA system and which country they represent. By the end of the day we had flown our two heats obtaining a best time of 3 min 38 secs which put us in fifth position. Friday commenced with a five minute practice and remaining third heat. At the end of the three heats our times were such that we made it into the Semi-Finals which entailed a further two flights to be flown which resulted in us achieving an overall position of ninth. So ended my first ever international competition, much beer and medals back at the campsite.

Saturday was the start of the French Grand Prix which being held on home ground and a weekend meant a bigger entry than the Dutch event. The same format as the previous competition meant the flying of our three heats. Unfortunately for a variety of reasons we were unable to repeat the good performance and at cease of play on the Sunday were down in seventeenth place, no medals and soft drinks on this occasion. Chris had also teamed up with John Leggott to fly in the F2F event. This is a slightly different class from the F2C which has a bigger fuel allowance and simpler models specifications; essentially this is an entry level or trainer class for F2C. In both the Dutch and the French Grand Prix Chris and John made it through to the three team finals. In the Dutch they finished third but were unable to fly in the French final due to John having suffered an injury to his right (model catching) hand. To me the most memorable sight of the F2F was the presence of a very young team whose father had driven them from Bulgaria in order to compete. Their equipment was very slow, old and not really suitable, however they entered and flew with enthusiasm in all their heats. By the end of the prize giving a few teams had contributed with some of their surplus equipment ensuring that they could continue in their quest to compete with more up to date gear.

At this type of competition there is usually a banquet on the Saturday evening which was held at a nearby village hall which we all attended. By way of breaking the ice between all the National teams the tables had been scattered with a quantity of coloured soft polystyrene balls which we all presumed were designed to be thrown between the various tables (well that’s what we did anyway!). Enter stage left devious cunning and British ingenuity. Having driven there in my car I remembered that the model rack was equipped with plastic model carrying racks which was made up of 22mm plastic water pipe as luck would have it a perfect fit for these balls. To those who were on the receiving end of very accurate blow pipe propelled poly balls we humbly apologise especially when we rigged up a water bottle air reservoir giving even greater velocity.

On the Monday we all rose very early and packed away all the camping gear and commenced the return journey. We came away with some success and disappointment, but that is what the racing game is about. From a personal point of view I found the week to be highly informative and satisfying. Despite the steepness of the learning curve I thoroughly enjoyed myself and came away with an urge to learn more, not make so many basic mistakes (thank you Chris for your understanding and patience) and continue to improve.


Neil T



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