Team Race 2005 Dutch C/L Nat's

17-18 Sept 2005

Or how NOT! to do team race

It all started with an email from my friend Herbert Harritsen in Holland. Do you want to do the 1.5cc team race at the Dutch Nat's?

OK. Sounds like it could be fun. question to Herbert, "Do you want to pit or pilot? Answer, "Pit." So that's sorted then.

Next question. "What models/engines do you have?" Answer, "Three mini goodyear models, a PAW 1cc (new), MVVS 1.5cc (new), two Webra 1,5cc (old)." So, nothing to set the world on fire but should be able to complete a race with something even if it means coming last.

Last piece of advice from me, "Find the engine that starts the easiest before I get there."

Thinking the ground work had been laid I got on with my life, only making provision to arrive in Holland a day earlier than normal to allow for some practice.

I began to get slightly perturbed when we spent the first afternoon trying to start the engines. It rapidly became clear that Herbert had no experience with diesels, and made even clearer by the strange position the prop was set for starting. There is no way you can get a good swing at a prop if it is set at 20 past 10 angle, unless you are left handed. Not a good situation with regard to a pit man. I do have experience, so rapidly went through each one to assess it's potential. The MVVS was the most likely candidate, so much so that it clipped my fingers while trying to adjust the stiff needle valve the resuting reaction to save my fingers led to a juggling match with an oily wing, which ended with the model flying out of my hands heading strait for a plate glass back door, fortunately it's progress was halted by a plastic garden chair. Unfortunately as it was not run-in I could not get it to run consistently, and there was not enough time to mess with it.

MVVS 1,5cc and Backwards running Webra 1,5cc

MVVS Webra

For some reason Herbert seemed reluctant to use the PAW. Although small, it would have probably been economical on fuel. The only other candidate was the older Webra with an alloy finish head, the red head was reserved as a back up as it would not start easily.

PAW 1,0cc


Day one over, and still no idea how the models would fly.

The next day access to Herbert's usual flying site was hampered by the grass being mowed, so we headed for an alternative site, an empty campsite in a wooded area. Again my concern was growing as the race would be over tarmac and we had no opportunity to practice take off and landing. Added to this was my own personal experience of how grass can pulverise a mini goodyear undercarriage. A sense of impending doom was growing.

This sense of doom grew to acute alarm on the first launch. The F*****g! Deerfly model did a wingover and a half roll in at me. but somehow did not hit the ground. The resulting flight was barely controllable. After the addition of a lot of lead to the nose and outer wing, things became a little more stable, but still the nasty tendency to come in at me on launch was present.

Part of the problem was Herbert's untutored approach to hand launching, which after a bit of advice became a bit more predictable. But this was not the only cause of the models vicious tendencies.

Trying out the Stinger with the reserve engine was not so dramatic, as the model was nose heavy with no glide, but stable in level flight. The real problem was the engines tendency to start backwards all the time. This could be alleviated to some extent by backing off the the compression and re-adjusting afterwards. Now we had a big problem. Herbert's inexperience was proving a large handicap, as I was constantly having to help starting the engines, clearly a no no for the race proper.

Now it may sound like I am constantly blaming Herbert, and I was certainly getting very annoyed at times struggling trying to keep my feelings under control. But Herbert is in an invidious situation, he has no one to fly with, and has grown up with glow engines, Now anyone that thinks diesels belong to the stone age really does have their heads up their rear ends, untill you have seen a modern high performance diesel in action you can have no idea what they are capable of, I think Herbert came away from the Nat's with a better idea of what should have been going on. For someone to be enthusiastic but have no one to share their passion with is not easy. A willing hand to launch a model, offer advice, or share experiences, is a precious thing that some of us take for granted. So if anyone living in or near to the Zutphen area of Holland reads this and would like to help Herbert out, drop me an email and I will pass it on.

Back home the red head Webra did not feel right to me, after stripping it down, the crankshaft appeared to be bent. Not to the naked eye, but enough to make it bind at certain places in the housing. Replacing it with one from a worn out Webra produced an improvement, so it was bolted back into the reserve model.

Saturday was the first day of the nationals and most of the morning was spent trying to get the hang of the models. The Deerfly still had the tendency to come in at me on take off, and this time I could not blame Herbert; I could see no reason why it should behave in this way and time was running short. It was so bad that at this point I was becomming extremley reluctant to fly it, under any circomstances.

The model that caused me such alarm and grief.


Giving it up as a bad job, another engine graft put the good Webra into the Stinger, and after placing both leadouts into the rear leadout guide the handling was reasonable. The engine was showing promise but needed to be set up a lot leaner to get some lappage out of it. The engine was also getting very hot once running, enough to burn my fingertips when adjusting the compression screw, something that could have been helped by larger ether content in the fuel, but again no time or materials, The extra ether would also probably have helped the starting. Another thing that left me cursing was the fact that I had left my old thin leather glove I use for starting engines, at home. The runway also has a super grip surface that is like kneeling glass shards, this had the effect of wearing away the plastic wheel at an alarming rate, I was wondering if there would be anything left the next day.

The Stinger/Webra combination that should have worked.

stinger webra

Sunday dawned with a thick mist over Ijssel river, which rapidly cleared to a bright sunny and calm day as we headed for the site, a change from the last two UK Nat's and the last Dutch one.

The problems got worse in the morning as we tried to practice. Herbert just could not start the engine inspite a lot of effort. I could, and not for the first time suggested I pit and Herbert pilot. He finally admitted that he did not want to fly as he had never flown with more than himself in the circle. I spent the next half an hour trying to find a fool proof way of starting the engine. Again I could start it reasonably easily, but every time I handed it back it remained stubbornly inert. The the spray bar had broken the day before and the PAW replacement Herbert had fitted was constantly coming loose which added to the frustration.

By this time the race organisers were sending runners down to find out what the hell we were up to. All that was left was to make the decision to fly or withdraw.

In the end I had to use some strong language to point out the reality of the situation. Herbert was inexperienced at flying with others in the circle, which could prove dangerous for other fliers. I could start the engine but had to be the pilot. With Herbert's inability to start the engine, the whole race would comprise on me sitting in the pilot circle twiddling my thumbs while Herbert sweated with a dead engine. This led to the bitter decision to withdraw.

What lessons can be drawn from this debacle. Certainly, preparation is all, and a team has to work and practice as a team. None of this was possible because of Herbert's situation, with us living in two countries separated by the English Channel, although making sure the engines and models where as reliable as possible prior to my arrival would have helped. So maybe we were doomed from the start. Personally I have learned to hate mini-goodyear models, both at home and during this period. As an introductory class of racing I can't think of worse concept. Scale models just do not fly well, small models do not fly well, small models have small undercarriages, which makes grass a nightmare, unless you happen to have access to a well maintained cricket pitch. It is quite possible to make 1/2A models (that's FAI 1/2A 1.5cc, not American 1/2A) of decent proportions that not only look good but fly well. Although the D wing layout dominates today, it's not difficult to make rules for a beginners class that has to have a separate wing and tailplane if you want it to look semi real. A proper profile 1/2A model would be a lot easier to build and fly. Old engines are a liability, If I can afford it I will always buy new ones (which for me means not very often). Technology does not stand still, and new engines are, relatively speaking, cheap and powerful these days. Nostalgia will not make an old engine run well, unless of course, you have deep pockets.

All in all a disappointing and frustrating time, that could have been been less stressfull with some preparation. I would have been happy to come last, as long as we could have started the race, flown, and finished. So anyone reading this that attempts to do what we did, you should be getting stuff ready months before the event, not during the last couple of days.

Back to Dutch Nat's