Keep on Pedalling
Participants from all over Australia will converge on the rural river city of Murray Bridge this September for the 18th Australian International Pedal Prix.
This unique, 24-hour race traces back to 1985 when a group of technology teachers organised for a handful of entrants to race their own designed and built HPVs (Human-Powered Vehicles) around a course erected in a car park.
Since those humble beginnings, the event has grown amazingly in size and significance, becoming the biggest race of HPVs in the world and in 2003 boasting a record field of 200 entries, a 14 per cent increase on last year.
It has developed so well, in fact, that the Australian International Pedal Prix is now part of a three-event series, known as the Australian HPV Super Series held throughout the year at different locations around the State.
Round One of this years series, the ADEC 6 Hour, was held on 25 May at Victoria Park. Lap times were broken in every category on the day. Round Two, the Adelaide 250, held on 27 July, was also extremely successful.
HPV drivers sit in a reclined position and use foot pedals to power their machines. The cars must have at least three wheels and teams over the years have come up with highly innovative designs, from open-top convertible-like machines to futuristic, streamlined closed-roof contenders. Building a lightweight but strong car is a key part of the design challenge.
The event, which is strongly supported by the RAA, prides itself on school student participation, with a major percentage of race entrants from schools around South Australia and other parts of the country including Western Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales.
Participating in the race gives entrants a great opportunity to experience close teamwork, learn and enjoy design and engineering, and involve themselves in a fun, competitive race environment.
Entrants benefit from developing cars that use alternative energy sources, working in a team environment and learning healthy habits through effective diet and fitness as part of their preparation for the event. There is also a strong community aspect to the event, with both teachers and parents being heavily involved in logistics and catering.
Throughout the 24-hour race, each team will typically change driver up to 50 times, while a pit crew is on standby to carry out repairs should their car run into any problems.
For the past six years, the Australian International Pedal Prix has been held at Murray Bridge’s Sturt Reserve, a 2.1 kilometre circuit on the banks of the Murray River.
Over the course of the race weekend last year some 25-30,000 people attended the event and, with the added hundreds of people involved in teams and organisation, the economic benefit to the Murraylands region was estimated at $4 million for the year.
As a result, the Rural City of Murray Bridge has ensured the “Pedal Prix Circus” is treated to the best race conditions by upgrading facilities and the improving the track surface. Other changes to infrastructure in Murray Bridge have allowed the venue to cater for the increase in team entries this year.
The RAA has a long tradition of Pedal Prix involvement, with the Association keen to support students working on alternative forms of transport, particularly “green” and energy efficient types, as well as seeing an opportunity to develop top design and engineering minds for the future.
Since last year the northern hairpin at Sturt Reserve has been named the “RAA Corner” in recognition of the Association’s sponsorship. Organisers are grateful for the RAA’s contribution to the Pedal Prix.
“The RAA have been tremendous supporters of this event for some time now,” says Australian International Pedal Prix Marketing Manager, Marcus Plowman. “Their involvement is important not just for the running of the event but also because such support is direct recognition of the many advantages the event has for our youth.”
Awards are on offer not only for the outright winner of the Australian International Pedal Prix but also for those who win their class. Class categories range from primary school to an open/adult class. Entrants can also win prizes for design, construction, and presentation.
Although the challenge of designing and building a car and getting onto the track is an achievement in itself, the race is where the participants come into their element.
The racing is fun but tightly contested and the big crowds at Murray Bridge enjoy an exciting spectacle with plenty of rivalry and cars regularly achieving speeds of over 50 km/h.
“It’s a lot of fun,” says 12-year-old Crafers Primary School Student and driver Shaun Heinjus, whose team finished 25th overall in 2002. “Especially being amongst all the other cars and racing – it’s great.”
The enjoyment of racing is foremost in the minds of so many of the participants in the event and while that is a big part of it, these young minds are, at the same time, doing their bit for the future of transport.
The Australian International Pedal Prix takes place on 20-21 September. For further information, visit the website www.pedalprix.com.au or contact Denise Clark on 8377 2640.