• PalmerSport
  • MSV Trackdays
  • YoungDrive at Bedford Autodrome
  • How Fast
Local pupils gear up for Bedford Autodrome Schools' Grand Prix

Sunday, May 09 2010

Teenage pupils from nine schools in the Bedford area are testing their engineering knowledge and racing skills today (Sunday 9 May) by taking to the track in electric cars that they have spent the last eight months designing and constructing in preparation for the Bedford Autodrome Schools' Grand Prix.

The Bedford Autodrome Schools' Grand Prix is a project masterminded by MotorSport Vision Chief Executive and ex-Formula One driver Jonathan Palmer, in conjunction with Nissan and with the support of Bedford Borough Council.

The initiative was launched last October, when pupils aged 11-16 from schools around Bedford were given the parts to design and build their own small electric cars.

Nine schools signed up for the Bedford Autodrome Schools' Grand Prix project: Bedford High School for Girls, Biddenham Upper School, Dame Alice Harpur School, John Bunyan Upper School, Mark Rutherford Upper School and Community College, Rushmoore School, Sharnbrook Upper School and Community College, St Thomas More Catholic Upper School and Wootton Upper School.

Each school has designed a four wheel single seater powered by a 240 watt electric motor with energy from two 12 volt car batteries. Nissan - which launches its own electric vehicle, the LEAF, next year - has provided sponsorship and online educational materials for children participating in the event.

As well as encouraging young people to develop their engineering skills and knowledge, by electrically powering the vehicles, the Bedford Autodrome Schools' Grand Prix is promoting environmentally friendly energy consistent with future car power technology.

After months of preparation, including a group test in late April, the schools will gather together at Bedford Autodrome today to test their vehicle's reliability and performance in a four hour endurance race.

Each school will field teams of six drivers and the race will include mandatory pit stops and driver swaps. The team that completes the most laps at the end of four hours will be declared the winner!

The winning school will be awarded a unique trophy in memory of the former Mayor of Bedford Borough, Frank Branston, a strong supporter of the project who passed away last year, and his wife Marlies Branston got proceedings underway by waving off each car on the start line.

There will be further prizes rewarding the initiative invested by pupils in the project, with awards for the most reliable car, most interesting technology, the best looking car and best presented crew, along with the fastest lap.

Many of the drivers classroom colleagues will be assisting with live commentary, website updates and mechanical maintenance of the vehicles, and there will also be accolades for the efforts made by support crews, with trophies for the best website, best hospitality catering and most publicised team.

"I am thrilled that the original concept the late Frank Branston and I hatched last June has grown into a major challenge that so many Bedford schools have risen to superbly," said MotorSport Vision Chief Executive Jonathan Palmer. "As a child I used to love the satisfaction of building karts and working on all sorts of machinery and it is wonderful to see other youngsters enjoying the same thing with the Bedford Autodrome Schools' Grand Prix.

"We live in a world increasingly dominated by electronics and I feel an important part of education is working with physical things, and the excitement of actually going to race something that one's own team of pupils have created is quite fantastic."

Dave Hodgson, Mayor of Bedford Borough, added: "The talent and enthusiasm displayed by pupils from across the borough in the wide variety of tasks involved has made the Bedford Autodrome Schools' Grand Prix an unmissable event. Thanks to the commitment of all the students and the staff, not to mention Jonathan Palmer and his team at Bedfo