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Sopwith and OPS Trophies 1984

Written for 'RCM&E' September 1984.

For the last nine years the Mach Aurora club of Milan have hosted an international F3D Fylon Race meeting at their club flying site near Melzo. Sponsored by OPS the principal prize is the OPS Trophy, but on several occasions the meeting has also been granted the Sopwith Trophy, donated by Sir T.O.M. Sopwith. This being one such occasion, the meeting had added significance in being the first meeting held since the class was granted World Championship status.

The Italians are anxious to host the first World Championship meeting, possibly in 1985, and the writer felt it essential that he attend this years meeting in his capacity as Chairman of the F3D FAI sub-committee to observe and compete.

In an act of amazing international co-operation, the Italian and Czech Aero Clubs had got together and arranged that the annual Modela Trophy meeting at Melnik, Czechoslovakia would be held one week after the Italian meeting. This made it a practical matter to plan one trip to take in both meetings.

International rules require that the flight score in seconds be deducted from 200 and the final result be obtained by dropping each competitors worst score and adding the remaining scores. The winner then being the flyer. with the highest score. (Hope you are still with me). I had previously informed the Mach Aurora club that this system must be used for the Sopwith Trophv but that they were free to use any system they wished for the OPS Trophy. In the event, they chose the English system whereby each competitors two lowest scores were discarded and the results used to qualify for 3 semi-finals and a final. All heats throughout the meeting were limited to three flyers.


From the point of view of race organisation, this was superb. Competitors were called over the public address system to the fuelling point. Here their tank was first pumped dry, then filled. They were then assembled on a dummy grid until the preceeding heat had finished and all models landed.

Very few of the models were actually processed and no wing areas were calculated, which led to some very suspect models being allowed to race. Fortunately, none of these finished at the top of the results (there's a moral there, somewhere). The same heats were flown throughout. Thus each flyer flew against the same two people five times.

A purpose laid tarmac runway roughly 150m x 25m formed the basis of the site with a tarmac road leading from one end of the runway to the pit area and then via a dirt road to the main road.

The base pylons were set up approx, one third of the runway away from the pit area and the start-line and take-off area being off the end of the strip, with the number one pylon in the middle of a corn field. Fortunately, winds were light throughout the meeting since the prevailing direction was at 45 degrees to the strip and from the direction of the number two pylon, thus all take-offs were downwind. Corrugated iron shelters were provided in the pit area but of insufficient size to accommodate all of the entry. The correct tactic here was to establish a base and then slowly spread out, the Casutt/Waltschek team being easy winners of this particular contest!

The Models

Variety, they say, is the spice of life and this was certainly true of the models seen at Melzo. Top of the list has to be the 'Polecat' produced by Victor Casutt and flown by himself and Ernst Waltschek. Conforming in every way to both the letter and the spirit of the rules, this beautiful aircraft had a totally enclosed motor/pipe assembly and used a GRP fuselage which needed no less than 7 plugs to produce. The four models present all had interchangeable cowls, cockpit fairing and undercarriage assembly. Instead of the usual dural undercarriage, a glass/epoxy moulding was used which, while adequate for the job, was capable of being broken in a bad landing as Ernst proved on Saturday.

Both Victor and Ernst were experiencing motor/tank problems. In Victors case the motor would be O.K. for one or two laps then proceed to run in bursts, apparently due to fuel surge. Nonetheless, the model covered 10 laps everytime and recorded good times. Just what it might have done with a clean run makes for fascinating speculation.

Ernst only recorded two times despite the full-time attention of Alessandro Rosetti from the OPS factory. Just how this team would manage in the hustle of British pylon racing is hard to imagine. After every race the cowl and fairing would be removed, off would come the pipe, and much tinkering with the head, carburettor and pipe length ensued, with many test runs. Speculation on the reason for the problem seemed to revolve around the size of the hole in the pressure nipple, but in the writers opinion, the 12in. long fuel Iines used between motor and tank cannot have helped. Granted that the concept of the entire model was superb, it did seem to have rather a lot of seams, intakes, outlets, etc. and overall drag could be quite high. A casual remark to Victor regarding the amount of exhaust 'goo' seen to be emerging from the wing/fuselage joint led to the model appearing for all subsequent races with the joint sealed with tape - and going faster!

The Malina brothers models were very ordinary looking with protruding pipe but impressive in the air with their very high RPM (28 - 30,000), wide course and fast times! A trend which should not be encouraged is that of using an inverted engine in an aircraft originally featuring a horizontally opposed engine. This allows the use of very thin cheek cowls which destroys the character of the aircraft. One particular 'Miss Dara' model would have been unrecognisable, were it not for the fact that it employed the full-size colour scheme and registration.

One of the German entries was a beautiful model of the Pace 'Spirit' aerobatic aircraft. Very nice, but not a racer! There were several entries featuring unpainted and untinted GRP fuselage and tissue covered wings - yeuch!

Practice Day, Friday 8th June

Pylon practice is the same everywhere. There is a lot of ground running on silly little props to impress the opposition - usually accompanied by shaking the head and saying in a loud voice 'it's 2000 RPM down on what it does at home!' Funny how every nationality seems to know that one phrase in English.

Dave Day, having convinced himself that glass or carbon props were necessary for a quick time was trying some made by Alan Laurie and was unable to obtain a motor run or stop plugs from blowing. The matter was resolved when Alan's own model threw a blade on a test flight. Dave returned to wood props and had no more problems. Despite warnings of possible radio interference from a local quarry no problems were experienced on any of a bewildering selection of frequencies in use. The Czechs were selling a selection of props, wheels and pipes to obtain 'Beer Money'. It was noticeable that the props and pipes were different from those they were using! Griggs seemed to be going slowly - we hoped he was shamming.

Saturday 9th

After a demonstration of traditional Latin arm waving and shouting, racing started at around 11.15 a.m. with what was to be the first of 4 rounds of FAI racing.

Round 1

Guy Brouquieres, France's racing dentist, failed to get away - very un-typical. At this point Britain's chances looked good with only Alan Laurie recording a time in the very first heat. Dave Day was going faster than at home despite being rich in his first run. Caller Alan Laurie saw a Cut given by the number one flagman but it was O.K. since it was the eleventh lap so we thought! Griggs still seemed slower than normal.

Round 2

Tony Racz received a rediculously slow time. Victor Casutts mis-fire getting worse. Guy Brouquieres got away this time. Griggs slow time.

Round 3

The British machine starting to falter. Laurie getting two cutsand recording a zero. Griggs faster. Casutt getting his fastest time so far despite persistant fuel problems. Tony Racz getting a reasonable time at last. Malina/Malina in a class of their own.

Round 4

Days turn for a zero. Having tried to start the motor with the fuel shut-off in operation, the shut-off was released allowing the pressure already pumped into the tank to flood the motor. Griggs was awarded one cut for a slow time. Manfred Pick spoilt a consistent run with a zero.

Sunday 10th

Round 5

A Laurie/Brouqujeres 'Grudge match' saw Guy win by 6 secs and record his best time. A similar bid by Day to catch the still mis-firing Casutt saw him loose by 0.7 sec and record his best time - identical to Guy's. Griggs was finding some of his lost airspeed while Tony Racz recorded a zero, the Malina/Malina machine droned on.

Club 20


A handful of entries for this event flew a series of three heats with the best two to count for semi-final selection. Alan Laurie crashed his number one model in the first heat but still qualified second fastest. Marcus Griggs had problems with his first model - pipe, glass prop, unrestricted intake, etc. - but still qualified fourth fastest with his No.2. Dave Day, calling for both of them was beginning to feel the effects of the heat. Fastest qualifiers were - you guessed - Malina/Malina.

There was now a lengthy demonstration to please the public and featuring some very impressive flying by the new OPS 30cc motor installed in a quarter scale 'CAP 20'.


Both Alan Laurie and Marcus Grlggs qualified for the Finals along with Malina/Malina.

FAI Semi-Finals (OPS Trophy)

Dave Day, having called in both Club 20 semi-finals now found himself with a desperate rush to prepare for the first FAI semi-final. This situation was not helped by the disappearance of his caller Alan Laurie to fettle his model for the Club 20 final. Alan was eventually found and Dave rewarded by a cut on the number two pylon. Dave then collapsed in the shade and refused to speak to anyone for a while. After the dust settled, the qualifiers for the final were Malina/Malina, Victor Casutt (still misfiring) and a very consistent Manfred Pick.

Club 20 Final

Very much an anticlimax with Malina/Malina running away into the distance from Alan Laurie and Marcus Griggs. Both of the latter are convinced that they could have won if Dave Day had been calling for them

FAI Final (OPS Trophy)

It would have been surprising if the Malina/Malina team had been beaten but the anticipated Casutt/Pick battle was not to be either. Victor almost conquered his misfire and was an easy second.


The two-in-one FAI event saw some interesting changes in the final order, particularly in respect of Riesinger who was 22nd in the Sopwith Trophy and 6th in the OPS Trophy. Nevertheless, the Malina brothers and Victor Casutt emerged 1st and 2nd in each event.

It was fitting that the vast majority of entrants used the OPS .40 engine. Too bad the winners used the Russian MVVS engine (tuned it's said in Austria). Alan Laurie had one of the new Irvine 40's in his number two model, while Tony Racz and Dave Day used OS motors. Dave's number two had the only Super Tigre seen. Strange in Italy.

Almost all competitors were using glass or carbon props made by themselves or purchased from other competitors. Sizes are hard to come by, but Victor Casutt claimed that his was 7.5 x 7in. As a comment on the weather conditions it was hot! That it was also also humid was shown by the fact that puddles left on the dirt road by a thunderstorm on Thursday evening were still there on Sunday - though somewhat smaller/


Having convinced himself that he had over-exerted himself in the heat and thus avoided calling duties in the Club 20 final, the writer set off onto the course with an armful of camera's to record the proceedings for posterity.

Upon reaching the tarmac, he stumbled and in a gallant attempt to save Tony Racz's camera from damage cracked his knee on the edge of the runway. On Monday morning it was apparent that all was not well so Alitalia were prevailed upon for the (expensive) return to England, where a hairline crack was diagnosed. (in the knee - not England!).

My apologies to my friends in Czechoslovakia for my non-appearance and my apologies to readers who were anxiously awaiting a report on the Modela Meeting. I can reveal that the Malina Brothers again won FAI, but our own Pete Smoothy won Club 20. Well done, Pete.


Sopwith TrophyOPS Trophy
Pick23D108.296.0109.20 110.5423.94327.93113.633



Italy 16 entries
Germany 11 entries
Britain 4 entries
Czechoslovakia 2 entries
France 2 entries
Austria 1 entry
Swiss 1 entry

Now it can be told...

The above is what appeared in the magazine - with a few editorial corrections. 'RCM&E' at that time was almost as bad as some of the current magazines - with the same culprits. Blame them also for the abbreviated results.

What I couldn't really tell at that time was just how my caller Alan Laurie gave me a zero in the fourth round. With the motor spluttering and about to clear itself, he opened the needle valve about two turns - on crankcase pressure! There was no way the motor could be cleared in time.

In the fifth round 'grudge match' between Alan and Guy, there was no way that Alan was going to win with me calling for him. All I did was call on the flag instead of anticipating.

Having called for both Alan and Marcus in their respective Club 20 semi's - and got both of them through - an argument ensued as to who I would call for in the final. I solved that by disappearing. Maybe I paid the price for that one.