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Full throttle!

Michael Balter reports…

Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands - on 20 April, a Dutch Air Force F-16AM went head-to-head with a Formula 1 Grand Prix racing car! During this exclusive meeting, Etihad Aldar Spyker Formula One driver Christijan Albers raced his F8-VII F1 challenger against pilot Ralph 'Sheik' Aarts's demo jet. This publicity event, named 'Full Throttle', was organised by the Royal Netherlands Air Force to raise awareness of its recruitment programme.

On 11 December 2003 I had the opportunity to see the Typhoon vs Ferrari F2006-GA at Grosseto Airbase in Italy - now I've had my second opportunity to see a race car racing against a fighter - what a show!

With the help of the media support team, we got a nice spot near the runway, positioned side-by-side with the Spyker, and could get the pictures we had in our minds!

Amazingly, the Spyker team holds historical ties with the Royal Netherlands Air Force; back in 1913, the first commander of the air force drove a Spyker car and from 1915 the air force flew seven Farman F22 planes, built under licence by Spyker. Today Spyker still uses air force concepts to build its GT cars, known as the Spyker Squadron. The logo of Spyker also holds an aeroplane propeller.

15:08 local, and it's time for the race… It seems Christijan had the advantage over the first three hundred metres as he accelerated away from the line, but over the final seven hundred metres the F-16 just pulled ahead to win the tight race by only two car lengths. Reaching a speed of 450 kph by the end of the straight, 'Sheik' finished the sprint in just 15.5 seconds. "It was a tight race," said Albers. "First all I could see was the plane in my mirrors, but then he just accelerated past me and off into the distance - it was incredible. I'd never been close to an F-16, or even sat in one, so it was really interesting to compare the performance of the two. Aside from the displays though, Ralph and his team do some brave work out there, I have a lot of respect for them."

Christijan's F8-VII race car has more than 700 bhp and can easily reach 350 kph, the same speed the F-16 reaches before taking off. In the air, however, the 'Viper' can easily top twice the speed of sound, a massive 2,020 kph. With 25,000lbs of thrust, or the equivalent of 10,000 bhp, the F-16AM is leagues ahead of the Formula 1 car. G-forces are greater too: for example, while Christijan's Spyker F1 race car can pull more than +5g racing through a corner, the F-16 is stressed up to +9g.

After his victory, 'Sheik' performed a spectacular flying display over the air base. Captain Ralph Aarts is one of the RNLAF's most experienced F-16 pilots, with more than 1,100 flying hours, including operational missions in Afghanistan. The twenty-eight year-old started his air force career in 1997 and received his wings in 2000 - after that he went on to join 313 Squadron in 2001 and relocated to Volkel, the largest Royal Netherlands Air Force Base, in 2005.

My special thanks go to Staf Voorlichting Vliegbasis Volkel staff for their great support and the crews of the Etihad Aldar Spyker Formula One team, plus Captain Ralph 'Sheik' Aarts for his first official solo-display, without which this trip would not have been so successful!


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