SA contestant wins BA A380 race

Competitors Rudolph Raath, Elliot Havakuk, Julien Maderay and Heidi Hawkes line up with Bryan Habana and the A380 in the background.
Competitors Rudolph Raath, Elliot Havakuk, Julien Maderay and Heidi Hawkes line up with Bryan Habana and the A380 in the background.
Durban - An extraordinary race unfolded at Durban's King Shaka International Airport on Monday as four amateur athletes and a local sports radio presenter vied to emulate Springbok and Toulon rugby player Bryan Habana’s sprint against a British Airways’ A380 and a chance to win the trip of a lifetime.

Last year, Habana’s incredible Man v Plane race, grabbed international attention, generating almost two million online views and rating as one of the Top 10 most watched YouTube clips in South Africa.

This prompted British Airways to launch an international competition to find people who would take up the challenge, to pit their physical prowess against its largest and most modern aircraft.

“Last year I accepted the challenge to race British Airways new A380 and won, but it wasn’t easy,” says Habana, “To take this on, the runners need to be physically fit and have plenty of strength, stamina and speed.”

The competitors were selected from thousands of entries through a competition hosted on ba.com. They were flown to Durban, where they were hosted over the weekend by Tourism KwaZulu-Natal.

Watched by Habana and the world's media, the runners from the UK, France, Israel and South Africa each took their turn to race the plane over 200m on a wet taxiway, parallel to the runway. Under starters orders, each runner gave their all as they faced the A380’s four Rolls Royce Trent-900 engines, each generating over 70 000 pounds of thrust.

In the end, there could be one winner, 23-year-old Project Manager from Cape Town, Rudolph Raath, took the crown to become the fastest runner on the day, with a time of 23.800 seconds. Raath wins two Club World return tickets on one of British Airways’ A380 direct flights to London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong or Johannesburg.

In the end, though, the power of the A380 was too much for the competitors, as it took the chequered flag on each of the five individual races.

About the runners:

Elliot Havakuk, 35, has dual Israeli and British citizenship, is self-employed and assists companies in the environmental sector, including some involved in developing agriculture, water access and energy supply in Africa. A keen sportsman, Elliott has had six knee operations as a result of football injuries, but is now lean and fit.

Heidi Hawkes, 30, works in the security industry and is due to get married next year, was overwhelmed to hear that she has won a place in the race.

Julien Maderay, 33, is a French Air Force officer, based in Brussels. He thought the idea was crazy, but his friends convinced him to enter. He was shocked to win a place in the race and immediately began a 10-day training regime to improve his chances.

Rudolph Raath, 23, had the closest to home ground advantage. A Capetonian who played first team rugby, water polo and cricket for Fish Hoek High School, now works as a project manager for a roofing contractor. Since school he has completed six Argus Cycle Tours and is training for a seventh this year. He shares a passion for travelling with his girlfriend. Before the race he said “I’m absolutely thrilled to be racing against British Airways’ new A380 super-jumbo. It’s so unreal - bring it on!”

Also pitting his skills against the British Airways A380 aircraft, not to win the tickets, but just for the thrill of trying, was former Sharks Academy rugby player and East Coast Radio’s breakfast sports reporter, Mak Dlamini.

The British Airways A380 has been at Durban's King Shaka International Airport since January 27 for flight crew training. The airline will begin scheduled A380 flights to South Africa on February 12, with three services a week. This will increase to six in March and together with its 747-400 services the airline will offer two flights a day between London and Johannesburg. It also flies twice daily to Cape Town.


Bryan Habana puts amateur athletes Heidi Hawkes, Julien Maderay, Rudolph Raath and Elliot Havakuk through their paces on a taxiway at King Shaka International Airport


Winner, South African Rudolph Raath, races towards the finish line, but is just beaten by the A380.

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