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Maiden Bedford Autodrome Schools' Grand Prix hailed a huge success

Monday, May 10 2010

After starting as an initiative for the local school community between MotorSport Vision Chief Executive Jonathan Palmer and the late Mayor of Bedford Frank Branston, the inaugural Bedford Autodrome Schools' Grand Prix came to fruition on Sunday 9 May following months of hard work and preparation by more than one hundred local school children - and the maiden event has been hailed a resounding success by all those involved.

Palmer and Branston's concept was to challenge pupils aged 11-16 in the Bedford area to design and build their own small electric cars from a set of parts provided by MotorSport Vision, with support from online literature provided by event sponsor Nissan.

By electrically powering the vehicles, the project promoted environmentally friendly energy consistent with future car power technology, and each school designed a four wheel single seater powered by a 240 watt electric motor with energy from two 12 volt car batteries.

highvoltNine schools signed up to the Bedford Autodrome Schools' Grand Prix project, with each facing different trials and obstacles in their design process. Bedford High School for Girls was one of the first teams to put together a prototype model, which they nicknamed the 'High Voltage' car. However, in early testing they found it to be too heavy, so worked on constructing a lighter second version of their vehicle.

Supportive parents also helped out with the preparation process, bringing their children into school early and picking them up late so they could work on their cars. Several parents from Rushmoor School even housed their children's electric vehicle in the family garage so that the young engineers could carry on developing the car at weekends!

In addition to creating the car itself, each school was also challenged to involve as many pupils and departments as possible by creating a website for their project, putting together a pit crew to assist with driver and battery changes, publicising their team and providing hospitality for their guests on raceday.

Months of design, construction, testing and mechanical trial and error culminated in a four hour endurance race on Sunday, an almighty challenge for each vehicle to undertake.

LMP_1945The schools gathered at Bedford Autodrome early on Sunday morning for technical scrutineering, where an official from Greenpower - which runs a national electric car project - verified each vehicle's safety and compliance with the regulations. This was followed by a fifteen minute qualifying session to determine the grid for the race and Mark Rutherford Upper School set the fastest time, granting them pole position.

As the countdown to the start of the race got underway, pupils gathered in the pit lane for a group photograph and welcome by MotorSport Vision Chief Executive Jonathan Palmer. They then lined up in their starting positions before a group of cheerleaders from Biddenham Upper School performed a special routine and Marlies Branston, wife of Frank, waved off the competitors with a Union Flag.

The four hour race presented many challenges for all nine teams, from completing smooth driver changes to encountering sudden mechanical faults with their cars. However, each school handled unplanned problems with a mature and pragmatic approach, seeking solutions and getting their cars back on the road.