University transforms lot for 4th annual Grand Prix

John Bisesi and John Bisesi

This Saturday, Lot N adjacent to Memorial Hall and Jerome Library will become the BGSU Intercollegiate Speedway, the site of the 4th annual Grand Prix of BGSU. The Motor Sports Club will be sponsoring the event, and its main goal is to showcase the renewable energy of ethanol-based fuel that will be used to propel the eight carts gunning for the finish line. The race will last 75 laps for a total of a 15-mile race, complete with sharp turns, high speeds and hay bales. ‘It’s like a formula one road course miniaturized,’ Tony Palumbo, advisor of the Motor Sports Club, said. Seven of the teams will represent the University, but the returning champions will be racing down from Eastern Michigan University. All teams, though, will be using the E85 fuel produced from corn, which this area has in abundance. The Motor Sports Club, which currently has less than 15 members, has a storied history of nationally representing the University in competition, Palumbo said. The club officially started in 1994 with the plan to support the electric racing effort, and it did so with the Electric Falcon, an all-electric open-wheeled racecar capable of speed of up to 140 mph. The club has brought three national championships and an award for the best-engineered car back to Bowling Green. ‘Racing at a collegiate level can be more than just students running around on the track, they have to be doing something to promote the next generation of vehicles,’ Palumbo said. He added that the University was first nationally to use E85 as a racing fuel for wheel-to-wheel competition. Race Chair Austin Griffith, junior, of the Grad Prix who recognizes the rationality of using E85. ‘Everyone is talking about hydrogen energy, but that isn’t something we can afford with it being so far ahead of its time. No one knows too much about it,’ Griffith said. ‘Ethanol is the more practical form of alternative energy.’ Palumbo said each year the Motor Sports Club looks to make improvements on the vehicles they race, and they plan to change the formula next year to include hybrids. The Grand Prix has become an educational program for students who want to gain hands-on experience outside of the classroom. ‘The winners in my mind are not necessarily the students who come across the finish line,’ Palumbo said. ‘The winners are the people that put the carts on the track, that put the event on because they get the experience and are doing something positive for Bowling Green.’ Griffith is hopeful about the sponsorship the race has gotten from such on-campus groups as Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity and from state companies like the Ohio Corn Growers Association, which is based in Marion, Ohio ‘I’m looking forward to putting on a successful event, and it shows how hard everyone has been working in the club that we were able to secure sponsorship in a bad economy,’ Griffith said. The BGSU Intercollegiate Speedway opens this Saturday, April 18th at 11 a.m. with the race set to begin at 2 p.m. The Grad Prix is free and open to the public.