The PTAR, first held in 1937, then called the Governor's Cup, coincided with the opening of the new Durban airport at Stamford Hill. Over the years it has evolved into a two-day race handicap race the aim of which is to go as fast as you possibly can around a given course. Held annually in May or early June, it is probably the most prestigious events on the South African aviation calendar.
Like in the past the race, to keep up with new technology, has gone through a number of rule and other changes and this year, the 84th Race, was no different. By popular request from the racing community the accuracy element introduced a couple of years ago has been removed and a plotting element has been re-introduced.
To achieve a fair competition and reduce the opportunity to circumvent 3D speed padding, the event format encourages crews to fly at their maximum potential by keeping key variables unknown. Two speeds are important to understand namely the 3D speed (the speed calculated in 3-dimensional space) and handicap speed (speed calculated based on the course).
On Day 1 each crew received a 3D speed and a chart with a pre-plotted route, including headings rounded to 5 degrees. The chart scale and route distance will not be made available to the crews. The aim on day one is to complete the route in as quick a time as possible. Time penalties will be applied for cutting corners, altitude infringements and exceeding your start 3D speed by an unfair margin. 3D speed flown on day one will impact the start 3D speed for Day 2. Time gains or losses will carry over to Day 2.
On Day 2 each crew received an updated 3D speed and a blank chart with a 1:250 000 scale and instructions to plot their own turn points. The start times for each crew will be adjusted for the day one time gain or loss, and the first plane over the finish line will be crowned the 2023 Presidents Trophy winner. Middelburg therefore was to be the testing ground for these new rules.
Proof, if needed, of the popularity of the race is Cobus Broodryk and Mario Febbraio who flew from Mosselbay in the Cape to Middelburg a distance of 1377.06 km or 853.78 miles.
Tarryn Myburgh who with husband Iaan were largely reasonable for the organising, a massive undertaking, of the race with the friendly ladies of SANTAM Insurance who helped by manning the registration marquee.
The field before the hustle and bustle.
It was a perfect day for air racing when I arrived midmorning on Thursday the 25th. Twenty-eight, down from last year and the year before had entered. I'm not going to speculate on the reasons for the rather disappointing support. Those that did entered were there to compete and enjoy themselves and that is what counts.
Some of the arrivals during the day.
Most of the day was spend with final speed testing to set or verify handicap speeds as well as to put the final touches to the venue. This is the second major event hosted by the wonderful people of Middelburg Flying Club and Richardt and Irene Lovett. Earlier they had hasted the prestigious Aeroclub Airweek and two weeks from now the EAA of SA's Annual Convention will be held at this always immaculately maintained field.
Co-organiser Iaan Myburgh who is also the race director during Thursday's pilots briefing.
Competitors and others in Richard and Irene Lovetts immaculate hangar.
Kudus to the good people of this dynamic club!!!
Race day one, Friday was a typical winters day. It was still cold but better than yesterday and the wind played ball. The good news is that there were quite a large contingent of first timers. That bodes well for the future of the iconic race.
Middelburg's control tower.
ZS-IDX looking spic and span.
Safety director, Nigel Musgrave in a jovial mood.
The DJA Team ready to face the day.
As always Century Avionics was there to assist.
Race Master David le Roux and Race Director Iaan Myburgh during Thursday's race briefing.
Contestants, marshals, organiser's, judges and others.
Hendrik Loots handing over the SA Rally Flying Championship Landings Trophy that he had won in 2021 to Fanie Scholtz the 2022 winner.
The PTAR is a handicap race with the fastest aircraft starting first on day one. The starting order for day two being reversed.
Fittingly it was Middelburg's Richardt Lovett and Alme'ro Calitz who was waved of first. It was their first time flying a rally. They were competing in Richardt and Irene's stunning Vans RV14 that the two have built. I believe they are now busy adding a Vans RV8 to their fleet. It seems as if the building bug has really bitten them!
They were followed in quick succession by:
Husband and wife Adriaan and Elmie Kleyn in their Vans Aircraft RV-14A
Richard and William Richard Day in their Cessna 210N.
Paul Marskell and Bill Bales-Smith in a Van's Aircraft RV-10 Paul Marskell Bill Bales-Smith.
Johan van Zyl and Eric Addison in a Van's Aircraft RV-7.
John Sayers and Dion Raath in the North American T-6G.
One hour and fifty-two minutes later it was husband and wife Adriaan and Elmie Kleyn in their Vans Aircraft RV-14A who were the first to land at the field.
ZS LML, the Cessna 182T of John and Judy Lehman who had departed at 10.06 landed at 12.13 having completed the course in two hours and seven minutes.
ZU-ACP the Aermacchi AM3C of Frederik and Apie Kotzee completed the course in two hours thirty-two minutes.
ZS-CZM Piper PA-28-180 flown by Thabiso Mongalo and Lindelwa Mdak completed the course in three hours and twenty-nine minutes. A creditable performance indeed considering the they have never flown in and rally before. The PTAR was their first attempt.
Saturday morning arriving at the field it was all systems go for the final leg of the race. All aircraft was refuelled, some were getting that final shine hoping to get an extra knot or two out of them. The marshals were easing all electronic devices that may be used to assists during the race and the emergency services, were on standby.
Ricardo Afonso and Kulani Hlungwani who has manned the tower could sit back and relax. Controlling the arrivals would just not be possible. However, they were alert for any unexpected incidents
Race 10 Fanie Scholtz and Herman Haasbroek finished 11th
ZS-CZG Cessna 172D Tshomarelo Moima and Thobeka Shozi first tome entrants finished 25th overall.
ZS-CZM Piper PA-28-180 Thabiso Mongalo and Lindelwa Mdaki firsttime entrants finished in 29th place.
ZU-FWS Evektor Harmony Leon Bouttell and Rob Jonkers finished 10th overall. It was Rob's first PTAR, after having been involved in the admin and organising side for the last number of years.
ZU-IPD Airplane Factory Sling 2 914 Willem De Klerk and EP Steyn finished 16th overall.
ZS-PVG Cessna 152 TD Juan Steenkamp and Emmerentia Van Der Merwe was placed 20th overall.
ZU-ACP Aermacchi AM3C Frederik and Apie Kotzee was the winners of the 2023 PTAR.
After a nail biting wait and a closely contested crossover the first gaggle of aircraft started arriving. The closeness is always proof that the handicap system works. The first fifteen to arrive were.....
Frederik Kotzee & Apie Kotzee.
Quintin Kruger & Johan Whiteman.
The closeness of the arrivals, proof that the handicap system works.
John Sayers & Dion Raath.
Stefan Lombard & Martiens Marais.
Henry Richard Daly & William Richard Daly.
Jakes van Strijp & Werner Vos.
Theodor Boshoff & Frans Boshoff.
Paul Marskell Bill & Bales-Smith.
Mark Bristow & Quinton Warne.
Leon Bouttell & Rob Jonkers.
John & Judy Lehman
Dewald Te Water & WA De Klerk
Fanie Scholtz & Herman Haasbroek.
Adriaan & Elmie Kleyn.
Except for one unfortunate contestant, a local fortunately, who had a flat on landing the race was without incident.
From then to the gala dinner and awards evening later it will be nail-biting time for the contestants. The position I which an aircraft crosses the line is a good indication of its performance but it does not indicate it position on the leader board. The final results is only announced after the tracking and other data are scrutinised and analysed.
That means another wait for the final results that are announced during a lavish dinner organised by Irene Lovett and held in their wonderful spacious hangar.
And the winners were race number 4 ZU-ACP the Aermacchi AM3C of Frederik and father Apie Kotzee
With race number 45 ZS-WSE the North American T-6G of John Sayers and Dion Raath in second
Followed by race number 6 ZS-FVV the Piper PA-28-235C of Quintin Kruger and Johan Whiteman.
To Iaan and Tarryn Myburg and all the others who have been working tirelessly to make the 2023 PTAR a success you have succeeded! It ran without a hitch and with almost, as far as I know, no complaints.