From a supporter two years ago, I this time advanced to pitman with Jan Gustafsson as pilot. A difference is that much of the show is missed, as lots of time spent on the practice ground and preparing. This report can only deal with what I didn't miss.
Home-preparation-wise I couldn't have a more leisurely time, as what we were running was all Jan's models and engines. Engines are Mazniak-based with lots of Jan's own parts. I just had to bring my pitman gear.
Arrival day, Monday, started sunny, but clouds thickened, and in the afternoon thunderstorms came with rain that lasted all evening. This way the week got a cool start. Next day was sunny, starting from 18 deg C in the morning, rising to 27 deg C in the evening. This cycle repeated all week, each day around 2 deg C hotter than the previous. This made for a scorching hot final day afternoon at around 34 deg C. Winds were all week very light and from varying directions.
The T/R circle, as in ´97, has an excellently flat concrete surface. A minor problem was that the pitting areas become quite slippery from the fuel spills.
Team Racing was flown as early in the days as possible to avoid the hottest conditions. Morning practice sessions had teams two-up, in the same order as the following heats. This worked quite well.
In the first round we were in the second heat with Surugue/Surugue and Pennisi/Rossi. Got a first flick start and took the lead with all three teams at around the same speed. I timed us at 18.0. At the first pitstop Jan cut off one lap too early, and we got down at 33. I filled up, heard the shout "landing" from my team manager Per Ehnwall, looked up and saw Pennisi approaching. I waited to hit the prop while holding the inner tip down, but to no avail, as Pennisi caught my lines. Model got snapped out of my hand, and finger valve pulled off the hose. Fuel squirted all over! Judges decision easy, DQ for P/R, reflight for us and S/S. No damage to our model and lines.
There were no other reflights, so we got the advantage of a two-up. What could we make of that? Nothing, it turned out, as starting had gone poor, 3-5 flicks, and range vanished out in the blue. First tank was OK, speed 17.9 and stop at 34, but only 31 powered laps on the remaining tanks, and we had to pit at lap 99. Meanwhile S/S dropped a catch.
It seemed as our starting problems were shared by many teams, maybe due to the hot weather.
Highlight of round 1 was Ross/Turner doing 3:16.4. Good pitstops and speed, 17.5, in spite of lots of misfire. Also good were Borer/Saccavino with 3.20.
Titov/Yugov seemed to have technical problems, and their 3:22.4 of the first round was to be their best. Yugov always makes use of his little notebook after every practice session or heat. I'd like to be able to grasp his notes! They now cater to around a dozen other teams worldwide. Having gone commercial, they had the means to bring their wives to Spain, a nice touch. Both spoke better English than their husbands.
In the era of buy-and-fly, some western teams have been nicknamed wallet fliers. A little unfair, as many add a lot of their own skills and know-how to their All-Russian or Ukrainian gear.
The very opposite of the buy-and-fly strategy is taken by Ross/Turner. (Only the Metkemeijers are in the same league, but they weren't attending, but chose to support their Pylon engine users at the F3D W/Ch in Norrkoping, Sweden.) Brian Turner designs and makes everything himself, engines, models, down to the smallest piece, even his own sintered piston material. About the only exception is the chromium plating, where Nelson, and lately Mazniak, are giving a hand. Not just the craftsmanship is top class, but he puts in a good portion of sound and qualified engineering. In doing so, he and Malcolm outperform all in the field. A model could be taken out of the well-equipped box at random, "they all perform the same". He used to be dangerous, but now, after retiring from his regular job, he's lethal.
It's been a while since an all-Western effort could match and surpass the "Russians"!
Back to the mortals, for the second round we changed to another engine and model, also in the hope of better starting, although speed suffered. In the heat we went undercompressed, with merely a 19.2 speed. 3:35 was the result.
World champions Andreev/Sobko came on form, doing 3:19.4. Ross/Turner
backed up their first result with a 3:19.6. Dark horses were Mohai/Szvacsek
of Hungary, with a fine 3:21.7. Their lines had soldered joints midway!!
The Save of the Century was performed by Bondarenko in a reflight heat in this round. The teams were Bondarenko/Lerner, Magli/Pirazzini and Fischer/Straniak. Pirazzini had missed a catch while Lerner was pitting in the next sector. As the Italian model was rolling on, Magli moved forward in the circle, ending up standing in front of Bondarenko. When Bondarenko took off, he collided head-on with Magli, who was in a place he certainly shouldn't. Bondarenko tripped and fell over, had left hand on the ground, but came up on his feet again. While keeping his model airborne!! Three whipping offences prevented a time, though.
For the third round we tried to fit a new piston to our fast engine from round 1 to get acceptable starting. We had to go for the biggest one in Samuelsson's inventory. It turned out it also had too loose a fit, so we had to settle for something else. We couldn't get any speed and had to enter hoping for just a marginal improvement. Didn't happen, just a 3:37.
Pennisi/Rossi who had two DQ:s took their last chance and in a race that became a two-up, could finish in the best time of the meeting at 3:15.6.
Others to secure their qualification in the last round were Gilbert/Gilbert by a 3:18.7.
Fellow Swedes Samuelsson/Axtilius got a reflight after they in a take-off almost collided with the French juniors' model which flew high during landing. They got to be the only reflight team, which in the last round means that volunteers have to be called.
Certain to volunteer is always the last semi-final team at that point, to avoid being thrown out by someone having the unfair advantage of flying single-up. Here this description applied to Mortinho/Goulao of Portugal. They also enrolled their fellow Portuguese team of Contente/Seco as third team. There is apparently no rule against volunteers from the same country! I pointed out this situation to the F2C judges, who had a few words to the teams that their actions would be under scrutiny. In this case the Portuguese flew cleanly, but maybe this rule should be looked over, to avoid that two teams could operate in concert.
Mortinho/Goulao's semi-final place was never threatened. They use Vorobiev engines, and they, and maybe the Hungarians, were the only semi-final team to use "standard" engines.
They had brought catching to the extreme. The pitman is equipped with a padded glove, and the model is brought to a dead stop at high speed in his hand, held fixed. Takes a strong wing, and their models are a little heavier than average.
The French junior team featured the only female entry, Claire Perret, the daughter of Jean-Paul, as pitwoman. Tougher than most male seniors, as she uses no glove, just a Band-Aid on her index finger. Pilot was a classmate of hers, both aged 15. Dad is hard on them, saving the best Vorobievs for the future, on the home ground!
The two Swedish teams had nothing but third choice draws in their six heats. As the winds were light this was of no consequence, though. Bad luck or a flaw in the draw?
The first semi-final round produced the fastest times, with Andreev/Sobko in the lead, followed by Ross/Turner and Gilbert/Gilbert. The Hungarians couldn't enter after their soldered line joints broke in the pull test. For the second round, they came with lines joined by a fishing swivel, but this was turned down by the judges. Finally they got someone to hand them full length wires.
Before the second semi-final round Borer/Saccavino were practising at a steady 17.0, albeit with very optimistic piloting. Could this hold in a heat? No, it turned out, but not due to the cook-up I feared. Instead to short range, leading to a pitstop at lap 99. They protested, claiming a lap counter error, but as there was a video uptake, this was fruitless. Only Mortinho/Goulao were able to improve in the second round, and that was from a poor first result.
This meant the final saw the leading teams from the first round.
All came up quickly, R/T having a slight speed advantage over A/S, in turn a bit faster than G/G. Small enough differences to make a bad pitstop decisive, however. R/T had some not so good pitstops earlier in the contest. The French flew in at 4th stop, leaving the fight to the other two. Before the last stop R/T had a 3 to 4 lap lead. Then a dramatic turn! Brian had one flick, two, three... Then Malc pulled the model in, probably thinking it would surely start. Brian had to grab it again, and continued to flick maybe six times. Then he re-primed, and off it went, first flick. By then A/S had made a good stop, for a 3 lap lead, which they kept into the finish.
Afterwards Brian told that after frantic flicking he discovered the
shutoff had been tripped by Malc's pull!
That's right, Brian! It's always the pilot's fault!
Nonetheless, they were all smiles!
So, the Sergeis Andreev and Sobko got the satisfaction of returning with fullest honours after their DQ in the same place two years ago. They combine the technology of Titov/Yugov with the stamina of young age. Like T/Y the pilot attention to the pitman is brought to perfection. Every lap Andreev turns his head to hold it still with respect to his pitman while the rest of his body turns a quarter of a lap.