1983 HPV Championships


Two weeks later, I found myself in Indianapolis, US of A for the big one. I arrived in the evening to be greeted by a blast of warm air. Whoopee! Having left the rapidly advancing European winter it was a real treat to spend some time in 75-80 degrees F temperatures.

A lot of people will have heard about the 'Indy 500' car race which is basically 500 miles of insane 'pedal to the metal' speed. This weekend was to see a very different kind of pedal power at the circuit. The so-called 'racing capital of America' played host to the 9th International Human Powered Speed Challenge on the last weekend in September. And what a great weekend it was. Records were broken, new developments came to light and many social get-togethers enabled me to assimilate the state of the art on the other side of the water.

Besides speed trials held on the '500' Motor Speedway there were 1/4 mile drags and some road races at Raceway Park, a tight, twisting circuit a little way out of town. The main road races were held in Eagle Creek Park on the same course used by the US Cycling federation for national selection trials. The USCF displayed an enlightened attitude by allowing a race meeting in the Major Taylor Velodrome with both normal track bike and HPV events on the programme. Throughout the weekend there was an ongoing contest to judge vehicles on their practical merits, handling, weather protection engineering, comfort etc. There was even an 'arms only' category. As is common with events in Britain, the machines present ranged from the downright weird and peculiar backyard/garage jobs right through to sophisticated, vacuum-formed hi-tech university entries. Conspicuous by their absence was the American Vector team, who hold the record for all-out speed. Previously much of the impetus for HPV development had sprung from California (where else!) but this year's event showed that others are not dragging their heels. Some of the local entries fared very well indeed.


The drag races first thing Friday morning were of limited usefulness but certainly provided a good warm-up to the rest of the weekend's events. Much more interesting (and amusing for some) was the Le Mans start road race. The riders and their vehicles were separated by the width of the track, and on 'go', ran across and attempted to get in and away as quickly as possible. Chaos usually reigned supreme.


The Pegasus team from the University of Cincinnati needed a rider for their vehicle so the 'limey' (i.e. me) found himself practising the manoeuvres for getting in and out of the machine. With three other riders, this required no small degree of co-ordination. Looking like a futuristically-styled squashed VW Beetle and ponderously bulky, I thought the Pegasus would be sluggish and tank-like. To my surprise, once we got the thing rolling along it went really well. Its size gave us the advantage through corners - nobody was going to argue with a vehicle that big (sort of an HPV equivalent of an articulated lorry). Acceleration wasn't brisk, but with an unladen weight of 350 pounds and 54 speeds what do you expect!

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