1956 World Speed Championships at Florence, Italy
Excerpts from the Model Aircraft Report
Pictures at end of the page
WITH an individual first in speed, and a second place in glider, the British fliers and models were certainly a focal point of interest at the 1956 World Speed and Glider Championships held at the Piassale delle Cascine and Peretola Airport respectively, in Florence, Italy. The weather was very hot, with little or no wind except for the last round of the speed event when a light breeze did spring up. These dead calm conditions played havoc with the glider contest, in which it was definitely a case of more models coming down than going up.
After a 27-hour journey the two teams comprising Ray Gibbs and Pete Wright (Speed), Bob Amor, Fred Boxall, Neville Willis and Gordon Roberts (Glider), Eddie Cosh (Team Manager) and Peter Hoskinson and the writer, arrived grubby and tired at Florence, to find that the only reception committee was two or three other visiting modellers looking very lost.
The party set off for the Aero Club of Florence whose headquarters were nearby. There they knew nothing except that there was an Information Bureau at the Station. The occupant of the Bureau could speak no English but it was eventually elicited that the hostel where the teams were to be housed was zo minutes drive away. A special bus was telephoned for and arrived 1 1/2 hours later-a foretaste of what was to come !
The hostel was very picturesque, but the accommodation was not quite what we had expected. There were eight double-decker beds in the room allocated to us, and which we shared with three Americans, one Canadian and three Italian proxies. Food was indifferent and one had to queue for at least 20-30 minutes for each meal.
The Speed Championships
Next morning the coach for the C/L arena left t hr. behind schedule and we soon got used to the idea that 9 a.m. meant 1o a.m. etc. The Piassale delle Cascine turned out to be an asphalt square, and two circles were laid out on a surface that was very good, all holes having been filled and rolled smooth. The morning was occupied with processing, which took place in the timekeepers' shelter-a wire protected affair that enabled them to time the models accurately and be protected from the direct rays of the sun. Meanwhile, workmen were busy erecting a stand and a 10 ft. high chain link fence round the arena to protect the spectators.
First round started after lunch, and was divided into four periods of 35 min. each, one flier from each team having to make a flight in each period. The flying order, which was strictly adhered to, was decided by ballot. Wright set the ball rolling for the British team with 173 k.p.h. in his usual unhurried style, but even though this approached last year's winning time, it was obvious that we would have to produce a far higher speed if we were to win. Gibbs flew in the third period and he, Sladky (last year's winner) and Battlo (winner of the Criterium d'Europe this year) were tipped as the potential winners. The Czechs were flying very consistently, all returning speeds very close to each other. Sladky was using an S.K. engine, but the rest of the team had M.V.V.Ss which this year have been modified to disc valve induction.
Amid much applause Prati turned in a neat 195 k.p.h. with a works modified Super-Tigre to head the list for the Italians, but his lead was short lived and soon beaten by Gibbs. By comparison with the others, Gibbs's motor was quiet, and the model did not sound fast, but there was no doubt about his speed-a resounding 206 k.p.h. Sladky flew immediately after Gibbs but could only manage 195 k.p.h. to tie with Prati, while Battlo was way down the list. After Sladky had flown, it soon became obvious that no one could touch Gibbs's speed for that round and it was in a mood of quiet assurance that the English team returned to the hostel, confident of a high individual placing at least, and as it turned out only Gibbs himself was able to better his first time.
Next morning the second round got off to a rather late start, with Wright flying early and improving by several k.p.h. on his first speed. Battlo jumped into the picture with a good 195 k.p.h. after one abortive attempt, while Sladky and Prati were still neck and neck at 194 k.p.h. Also with this speed were the Czech fliers Smejkel and Vydra. Then Gibbs went out to turn in another effortless 206 k.p.h. and he was followed by Cellini with Zoo k.p.h., which speed shook everybody, particularly the Italians, as he was not using a SuperTigre but a specially prepared Barbini B-40.
And so to lunch and the final round. With Gibbs having proved his first flight to be no fluke there was much activity in the other camps with the taking of temperature, mixing of fuels, polishing engines, etc. The Czechs devoted the whole of the lunch break period to test flying.
Early flights in the last rounds were by competitors who had not done so well and it was obvious that team managers were holding their No. 1 men back for the cooler later periods. Smejkal gained 2 k.p.h. and moved in front of Battlo, who was unable to improve his second round time-as were also many other top placers. The atmosphere was tense and exciting as Gibbs went out to make his final flight, and again his quiet motor and effortless style of flying did not, to the average onlooker, appear as fast as many others, until his time was announced-211 k.p.h. Meanwhile the Hungarian Vitkovics had moved into 2nd place at 205 k.p.h. with his special rotor disc Super-Tigre, running on borrowed fuel, and when Cellini was unable to better his earlier 200 k.p.h., the top individual results became a foregone conclusion.
Then as a fitting finale to the day, permission was obtained for Gibbs to make an attempt to break the existing world record of 215 k.p.h. Flying this time on 8 thou. lines his model reached 225 kph (139.8 mph) to establish (subject to ratification) a new world record and the announcement of his time was greeted with loud applause. It was, in the gathering darkness, impossible for us to see the model in flight against the background of trees, but the timekeepers had positioned themselves near the ground and both recorded an identical time of 16 sec. A photograph was taken of the watches.
Only models to fly clockwise were the Finnish entries of Savolainen and Jaskelainen ; both used Super-Tigres with S.K.F. bearings.
Battlo's models were made from gummed paper strip moulded round a former and were very strong and light. The motor was mounted on a SuperTigre pan which was cut off just aft of the wing.
The Barbini B.¢o featured a steel connecting rod with needle roller big end, roller rear race and S.K.F. front ball race. Designer/manufacturer A. Barbini tells us that his hobby is watchmaking.
Gibbs was using the McCoy-Based "Nipper," which unquestionably showed itself to be the best 2.5 in the world,.
Congratulations to designer/builder Fred Carter, whose hobby is making these " hot " motors as a relaxation from his profession of watch-making.
It was most interesting to study styles on the pylon, which varied from Wright's unconcerned and apparently leisurely circulating, to some who, holding on tightly with one hand, appeared in danger of becoming airborne as a counterbalance to the model.
Pen bladders were widely used and gave very smooth runs-notable excep There were 29 entries who actually returned a score, and no less than i g fliers achieved speeds that were equal to, or higher than, last year's winning speed.