A Mansfield air racer has become the first pilot to win the sport’s prestigious Schneider Trophy twice – in the event’s 100th anniversary edition.
John Kelsall (64), who flys the Vans RV7 aircraft he built himself in the factory of the Prodec Precision Manufacturing business he co-directs, won the 114-mile race by just one second.
And though competitors from Spain, France, Germany and Malta as well as from across the UK took part, it was ironically fellow Sheffield Aero Club member Nigel Reddish, from just down the road in Kirkby, who he pipped to the post.
The race took place over six laps of a 19-mile course in the skies above Alderney in the Channel Islands, where pilots flew around each point as quickly as possible.
Each plane was handicapped depending on their speed and weight, evening up the contest between the different designs and models of aircraft and ensuring the pilot’s skill and judgement was crucial.
“The fact you race for more than 100 miles and it all comes down to one second shows just how fiercely contested it is and how you have to push things to the limit and concentrate hard to win,” said John.
“I’ve raced this every year it’s been held since 1999 and won in 2004. To win again 10 years on and become the only person to win it twice is a terrific honour and a great feeling.
“It would be brilliant to do a Schneider Trophy hat-trick, but the King’s Cup is the other big goal. I have come second and third a few times and if I were to win that then I could happily say I’ve achieved all I’ve wanted to.”
The Schneider Trophy was once contested by sea planes and is famous for aiding the development of the Supermarine Spitfire, which defended the UK in The Battle of Britain during World War Two.
It is now considered the second most prestigious air racing trophy to win behind the King’s Cup and John has his sights firmly set one winning one or both competitions in 2015.