If you can imagine a perfect amphitheatre for a sailplane race it would be the valley of La Cerdanya. At the eastern end of the valley, which is in France, is the impressive Vauban fortress at Mont Louis at 3,500ft altitude. The valley slopes away to the west for 60kms to 1,000ft at Seo DeUrgell in Spain, flanked on both sides with mountains topping out at 9,000ft. With protection from the moist air coming from the North and West, the valley has a microclimate providing excellent conditions for soaring flight. If the winds are light the thermal energy and convergences can be spectacular, and if the wind is significant from almost any direction, the wave lift can be used for very fast and exciting races.
The airfield at La Cerdanya, home to the Aero Club of Barcelona gliding club, has first class facilities and is ideally located close to the border of France and Spain. In good conditions races are possible along the Pyrenean mountains to the west of the valley, almost as far as Pamplona.
Of the 19 pilots who will grid on the first race day, no fewer than four of them have been a World Gliding Champion in previous years and eight more of the pilots have been medal winners at World Championships. The many other earlier achievements of these pilots include four European Champions plus seven Continental Championship medals. Such a talented group of pilots coming together to compete for the coveted title of Sailplane Grand Prix World Champion will ensure some close and competitive racing. Of course, the rest of the competitors will be pushing hard to win their first title and will ensure the winner will be a very deserving pilot.
The past performance of Sebastian Kawa (PL) and his recent victory at the European Championships in Poland make him a clear favourite, but we can be sure there will be many of the other competitors who will be trying to take the top spot.
Maximilian Seis (FR) and Didier Hauss (FR), both former Sailplane Grand Prix World Champions, are proven masters at this form of racing and have to have a good chance of a podium position.
The series of National FAI/SGP events are unique in bringing into the International competition environment pilots who have little opportunity to compete at this level. Most of them are national champions in their own country and will be keen to prove their competitiveness and skills on this world platform.
Following the contest
Racing will take place each afternoon. Preview broadcasts should commence around 14.00 and the race start at around 14.30. The SGP media team will publish interviews with the pilots and highlights of each days racing on the www.sgp.aero event site, as well as photos and videos of the action around Potchefstroom during the final.
The first race is on Sunday, 2 June. To follow live race coverage results and pilot interviews, go to the event web site at sgp.aero/finals2019