The race weekend at Abbeville in France (9/10 May 2015) presented itself as the perfect opportunity to get all these requirements completed, and have a continental adventure into the bargain. Seven days were set aside, and leave scrounged from the day job, and despite 30-50kt winds, a safe, yet steady route was negotiated to Abbeville, with social stops (and warm hangarage) at Gloucester and Shoreham on the way out, and Cambridge and Sleap on the return. My trusty navigator flew in from Copenhagen and rendezvoused with DRAM and I in 1920s style at Brighton City (Shoreham Airport). And so, the adventure began.
We'd set the Thursday aside to visit some of the WW1 memorials, in particular the grave of my Great-Uncle, Lance Corporal Norman Gibson, my granny's wee brother, killed at Roclincourt near Arras. He is commemorated on the war memorial at Prestwick, where he spent his 18 short years. I had visited several years ago, and planted some little yellow Prestwick sobhrachans (pron. shiorachans), Gaelic for 'primroses' - his mother, my GtGtGrandmother was a native Gaelic speaker, cleared off their land on Mull in the 1800s. Perhaps that is why I return so often to Glenforsa Airstrip.....just 4 miles away from my ancestral home.
Slightly nervous about flaunting the kilt after the Election Result, our whisky, banter and tasteful shirts were warmly welcomed into the Racing fraternity, and a keen interest was taken in the two headwind generators that were attached to our amphibious aerial chariot. Saturday dawned with a sporty 20-25kt wind, resulting in the most challenging race conditions that the ensemble could remember (that may be due to old age and Tomintoul 10yr single malt). Despite this, Team DRAM finished a very respectable 10th out of 17, and there was much hearty congrats and cheering at the lively evening dinner.
Sunday, the Battle of Britain Trophy race day, saw perfect conditions, a gentle 10kts westerly, and few cumulus at about 1500'. We soon got into the race mindset. Set course, aim for the turning point, check altitude, and repeat ...... Best to keep a log of which lap you are on, as at 700ft and 131mph indicated, it is easy to lose track (so to speak). The 5 laps of 23 miles each, round the Somme estuary flew by (scuse the pun), and as we turned the final marker we started to get worried. Where was the swarm of RV8s and Rallyes that had buzzed past us by this stage yesterday? Keeking over the left shoulder in our 7o'clock, we could just see the bandits a mile or so behind, approaching the last Turning Point .... but by this stage we were in sight of the finish at Abbeville Airport. We passed over the Somme at 700ft, from whence we could commence a final dive to 100ft toward the finish line. The nose lowered, the airspeed rose, 140, 150, 160..... the altitude wound down 600, 400,200..... the line of poplars and the A16 tollroad flashed past underneath.........we could see the fear in the truck-drivers eyes .....yet, we nervously held our line, looking over our shoulders, left and right, expecting to be bypassed at any second ......but it never came......the finishing line blurred past in a huge black and white chequered flaggyness and we pulled up into a gentle climb to 1200ft and had a nervous giggle to ourselves......"did we just cross the line first?"...."Sacre Bleu"........then the doubt sets in......."I think I cut one of the corners at TP1"......."we can't have won"........"NO WAY" . We waited for all the other racers to cross the line, join the circuit and land ahead (we needed a little more care as we could only use the intermediate exit and didn't want to hold up the landing stream with our supermarche-trolley-like taxiing tendencies). And so, to the grass parking, engine shutdown, adrenaline still racing, and the calming tick-tick-tick of a gently cooling 210HP, 5.4litre Continental flat-six (IO360DB)...... Chilling out on the grass in glorious 24deg sunshine, listening to the skylarks celebrating overhead, this felt good.