Tuesday 14th November 2017
Des Hart will dedicate any success to brave daughter Sofia and his family when he attempts to win the Air Race 1 World Cup Presented by Chang for Scotland this weekend.
Des, from Coupar Angus, Perthshire, will be flying the national flag against the best air racing pilots in the world – in the fastest motorsport on the planet – at Thailand’s U-Tapao Naval Airbase from Friday to Sunday.
But the dad-of-two has been forced to put air racing on the back burner for the past year after his family received the earth-shattering news that youngest daughter Sofia, just seven, was suffering from bone cancer.
Des, wife Lynn and eldest daughter Helena, nine, are keeping their fingers crossed they can look forward to happier times with Sofia.
“It’s been a really rough period for all of us and I had no intention of racing this year due to how poorly Sofia was,” he added.
“It was a very aggressive bone cancer, but the initial scans after her chemotherapy looked really positive, and she finished her immunotherapy before I flew out to Thailand, so we’re hoping and praying for more good news in the coming weeks.
“I got an offer to fly Sleeper [the Cassutt IIIM race plane he’ll be competing in] and accepted after chatting it through with Lynn. Any success I have at the World Cup will be for Sofia and my family.”
The 43-year-old shipbroker will compete against 16 other highly-skilled race pilots at the world’s premier airborne series, known as the formula one of air racing.
Hosted by the Sports Authority of Thailand, part of the Ministry of Tourism and Sport, the world’s purest air race challenges pilots in a demanding test of skill. Each race sees up to eight pilots go head-to-head on a tight oval circuit at speeds of over 250mph just metres above the ground.
“It’s going to be a thrilling event in a truly spectacular location. I can’t wait,” added Des.
“Winning the World Cup for Scotland would be unbelievable. The support our national teams get wherever they go is renowned across the world and it would be great for Scotland to win something, rather than being underdogs all the time.
“Air Race 1 is the fastest motorsport in the world and an unbelievable spectacle. I’ve been to Formula One, which is fantastic, but you only get to see the cars each time they pass where you’re sat.
“With Air Race 1, you can see everything, and it’s even quicker! People probably won’t be aware just how fast, close together and close to the ground we’re racing.”
It’s been an intense year for Des, who also started his own company last Spring. F30 Aberdeen specialises in sourcing, chartering and sales of subsea and project vessels within the oil, gas and renewables sector.
Des is now looking forward to letting Sleeper – built by rival pilot Justin Phillipson and his brother Josh, plus another pilot, Rick Poe – loose around U-Tapao Naval Airbase.
He also explained how his aerobatics experience will come in handy.
“The exciting thing is we don’t know what this aircraft is going to do,” added Des, who is trying to run 5km every day to return to his ‘racing weight’ for those all-important marginal gains.
“It’s a complete rebuild and I’ll be the first to race it. It’s called Sleeper for a reason. It may look like an ordinary Cassutt, but we’re hoping it will cause a few upsets.”
Des added: “We don’t do aerobatics during races but you have to demonstrate you can handle such scenarios when training to become an Air Race 1 pilot.
“Wake turbulence from other aircraft can roll you upside without warning, which means you can suddenly find yourself the wrong way up, just feet above the ground, at speeds of 250mph!”
Des jokes he was destined to become a pilot from the moment his family were evacuated by air from RAF Akrotiri at just four weeks old.
“My dad was in the forces and we were there with him until Turkey invaded Cyprus,” recalled Des.
“I was too young to fly at the time but we had no choice. It’s probably where my love of aviation began!
“After getting my flying licence, I used to fly military jets and liked the speed but they are really expensive to fly.
“So I bought a Cassutt, as they’re also known for their speed, for personal use and after flying that for five or six years, I got invited to compete at my first Air Race 1 event in 2014.
“I’ve been a regular podium finisher at Air Race 1 events since, but winning the World Cup would top the lot.”