By Alex McNaughton, Head of Faculty: Art & Design
After competing in their first race at the Goodwood Motor Circuit in May, the Bedales Greenpower team took to the Top Gear test track at Dunsfold on 18 September for their second outing. Here, students Elliot Cundy and Lolo Gaio reflect on the experience, which has earned the team a wild card entry to the International Finals at Goodwood on Sunday 9 October. The team are now furiously tweaking and improving the car ready for the season finale and we are looking forward to another full and enjoyable day at Goodwood.
Elliot Cundy, Block 4
The Bedales Greenpower team attended their second race of the year at the iconic Top Gear test track at Dunsfold. Since the last race, the team had upgraded the car with a brand new cooling system and reworked steering. Due to a recent wave of illness as well as a clash of commitments, we only had two people available to drive – me and Lolo – between whom we divided three hours of racing time.
After our car had passed the all-important scrutineering, we were allowed out on the track for the first time to practice. Unfortunately, shortly into the session, another team’s car had rolled at the first corner, causing the deployment of an ambulance and halting the practice session for 20 minutes. Once all was clear, we started to learn the line of the track, putting down consistent, gradually improving lap times whilst learning the limits of our car. The first race was fast approaching, so after a swift battery change, we lined up on the grid for the first real test of our skill and car.
With 57 cars on the track, it was certainly a fight for space. I was driving the first stint, and was quickly learning that dealing with other people intruding onto my line would be a problem. Proceeding around the final corner, I was pushed into a cone by another car on my outside, forcing me to pit early to check for damage before letting Lolo hop in and take over. By the end of the first race, our battery was beginning to drain, leading us to place 23rd overall and achieving a top speed of 25mph.
Lolo Gaio, Block 4
Before the second race, my Dad realised that the nuts holding the wheel to the car were loose on both sides, which was causing the wheels to scrape against the car and make an unpleasant sound when turning. After fixing that, we changed the back wheels for the front wheels; the front wheels were larger than the back, which meant when swapped, the front wheels wouldn’t scrape against the car. Having a larger wheel on the motor also resulted in a longer gear ratio and therefore a slightly higher top speed of 26mph.
We started the race in 24th place, and finished in 11th, having overtaken 13 cars in the first lap! Our car was running well, and it felt super fast. At the end of my first stint, we were in 8th position and after the pit stop, we were in 11th. Elliot had a longer, 40-minute stint to save on a pit stop against the rest, which got us up to fifth position!
Nothing eventful happened during the race until the lap that Elliot was due to come into the pits, when there was a red flag. Two cars crashed one corner behind him and the race stopped, with Elliot right behind the person holding the red flag. One car managed to get into the pits just before the red flag, so he got a free pit stop. As we were speaking to the race director Vaughan Clarke, he told us an impressive fact – there had only been one broken bone in all 22 years of racing. With the ambulance out, we were relieved to hear that neither driver was injured and the race could resume after 30 minutes. Elliot immediately drove into the pits, and then I was out… with a dying battery. The car was going much slower than when I started and we lost the lead we had gained.
In the end, we finished 17th (10th in our class), which was not too bad overall. The race was an incredible experience, and I’m so glad we did it. Next time, we’ll add wheel covers and make the car more aerodynamic, and hopefully we’ll be able to make it a full race without the battery dying on us.