This article was first published in the Weekly Advertiser newspaper on November 20, 2017.
The vast Wimmera plains north of Horsham are set to again slip into the international spotlight with confirmation Horsham Flying Club will again present a leg of world gliding championships.
The Ninth World FAI Sailplane Grand Prix series, sprint titles involving some of the best pilots and machines from around the globe, will be in Horsham from January 22 to 28 next year.
The Horsham grand prix, one of nine around the world and the only race in Australia, will launch the series and be part of a big summer of gliding in the region.
Horsham Flying Club spokesman Arnold Niewand said the grand prix would anchor three major gliding events at Horsham aerodrome.
“We’ll present the grand prix a week before our cross-country coaching course, which will then be followed by our annual Horsham Week gliding competition,” he said.
“It makes sense for us to run the three events after each other.
“Pilots who come to do the training course can watch the world’s best.
“We’ve usually run Victorian state gliding championships in conjunction with Horsham Week for the past two years.”
Horsham has won the right to run back-to-back titles after a successful Australian grand prix in December last year.
Federation Aerionautique Internationale, FAI, the world’s premier air sports organisation, offered the Horsham club a back-to-back opportunity – to again run the sole Australian leg in the world grand prix.
The prestigious event, considered the ‘Formula 1’ of glider racing, attracted 14 world-class glider pilots and a worldwide audience through the internet.
Pilots included multi-winning state gliding champions, F-111 pilots, a former Qantas pilot and the former head of the RAAF.
“We’re running it over the Australia Day long weekend and we’ve already got registrations from four of the pilots who flew in Horsham last year,” Mr Niewand said.
“There has also been interest from Italy and South Africa.
“It is a significantly different style of racing from our usual Horsham Week competition, which is all about endurance. This type of racing involves intense sprinting.
“Gliders will start in full view above the aerodrome and, similar to last year, there will be viewing areas for the public near the finish line.
“People will also be able to track the progress of the competition on television.
“With the events running after each other it is going to be a real smorgasbord of gliding activity.”
The sailplane series will move onto Orlando, USA in March, Kielce, Poland in April, Usman, Russia and Boras, Sweden, in May, Rennes, France, Varese, Italy and Szatymaz, Hungary in June and Musbach in Germany in July.
A world final will be in Cerdanya, Spain next September.