University charges up to take on America in Electric Grand Prix

Coventry University engineering students are gearing up to race an electric vehicle at the world-renowned Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) – fifty years after a Coventry-built engine powered racing legend Jack Brabham to a top 10 finish at the famous ‘Brickyard’.

Ryan Colvey (24), Paul Sleight (23) and Andrew Cook (21), all Motorsport Engineering students, are teaming up with the University of Sunderland to create an electric go-kart to compete as part of the build-up to America’s most iconic race, the Indianapolis 500.

Writes Alex Roache…

The universities’ joint entry into the IMS’s prestigious Electric Vehicle Grand Prix (evGrandPrix) marks the first time a team from outside the United States has been invited to take part in the event.

First run in 2010, the evGrandPrix encourages students to design, build and race the fastest and most energy-efficient battery-powered kart over 100 laps.

This year’s Indy 500 – which is expected to attract a global television audience of over ten million people – celebrates a landmark anniversary with its 100th running since 1911, and the Coventry and Sunderland team will join the pre-event celebrations by going wheel-to-wheel with 70 universities from across America.

In 1961 three-time Formula One World Champion Jack Brabham raced a Coventry-Climax-engined Cooper T54 to a top 10 finish in the Indy 500, a feat Coventry’s students are hoping to repeat.

Ryan, a postgraduate Motorsport Engineering student and project co-ordinator at Coventry University, designed and built the kart with the help of second-year engineering undergraduates Paul and Andrew, and is confident the University’s state-of-the-art facilities and low carbon vehicle expertise will put the team in pole position for a strong result at the hallowed Speedway.

Ryan, whose experience includes engineering Coventry University’s Formula Student race car, said:

“We’re really quite excited about this opportunity – it’s not every day you get invited to race at Indianapolis. It’s a testament to the talent and reputation of engineering students in this country, and I think we have a great chance of living up to that reputation in the race. We’re not going all the way to America to finish second!”

The evGrandPrix, which is being organised by Purdue University, Indiana, in conjunction with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, aims to inspire students to use sustainable technology to develop racing machines with an environmental conscience.

Coventry’s automotive engineering pedigree and excellence in the field of low carbon vehicle research were key to the team being invited to become the first foreign entry into the illustrious event.

Steven Shelby, director of strategic engagement at Purdue University, said:

“Purdue University is thrilled to have a combined team from Coventry University and the University of Sunderland participating in the evGrandPrix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. By using electric powered karts, we hope the event will inspire students to channel their creative energies into developing green technologies for future vehicles.”

Chris Aylett, CEO of the UK’s Motor Industry Association, said:

“The Indy Speedway choosing, as part of its celebration of the 100th running of the world famous 500, to run with Purdue University, the evGrandPrix for electric karts, is a brilliant concept which reminds us that the Speedway was conceived as a site where future innovation in auto design would be tested. Students will be encouraged to use sustainable technology to develop racing machines with an environmental conscience, just at the time that the wider automotive industry grapples with this very problem.

“The entire international membership of the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA) applauds the joint entry from the British universities of Coventry and Sunderland, both leading centres of engineering excellence in low carbon vehicle research. We wish them every success – but this great event is one where everyone is a winner!”

The evGrandPrix will take place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 7th 2011.

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