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
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.
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.
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.