On a brisk Indiana spring day, 22 drivers took to the Purdue University Grand Prix race track, the first wheels to hit the tarmac for nearly a year. As tradition holds, the first practice session of the year is the annual Purdue Grand Prix Rookie test, allowing those drivers with no prior Purdue Grand Prix experience to test the waters before being thrown in with the sharks. This year’s opening practice commenced on Saturday, April 2.
The Purdue Grand Prix is called “the greatest spectacle in college racing” for a reason – it’s the most action you’ll see sanctioned by a University in North America. Every year, 33 karts take to the dedicated, 10-turn circuit for 160 laps of all-out endurance karting action. This year’s 59th running of the race will occur on April 24.
Another reason this race is so outstanding is the amount of hard work and effort Purdue University students put into the effort – both as teams competing in the race as well as the Purdue Grand Prix Foundation, the completely student run organizer of the event. Couple this with the race being two weeks before final exams, it shows how hard everyone works to see the standard chassis powered by Yamaha KT-100S get set up to race.
After Rookie practice was all said at done, first-timer Brenden Johnson in the No. 4 IUPUI Motorsports Club kart topped the charts with a time of 27.812s. This top time was nearly 2 seconds slower than last year’s pole time of 25.529s set by reigning champion and three-time winner, Jimmy Simpson, but with conditions less than perfect for the very first session of the year, we expect to see times drop drastically before race day.
Jacob Knueven’s No. 3 Cary Racing machine timed a mere 0.162s behind the leader, closely followed by Stephen Hannah in the No. 39 Beta Theta Pi Racing entry. Rounding out the top 5 were Charles Meredith (No. 99 Sigma Chi) and Jered Thayer (No. 7 Triangle Racing Team) with times of 29.432s and 29.634s, respectively.
The all day session was split into two sessions, morning and afternoon, splitting a short lunch period. Unfortunately, the unpredictable Indiana weather put a stop to the session session with another two hours remaining. Teams completing the most laps included the No. 99 Sigma Chi team and No. 7 Triangle Racing with 45 laps total. Johnson’s top time was completed withing 31 laps on the green circuit.
The first session of the year did not kickstart the racing season without incident, however, with some teams finding trouble. We saw a number of teams struggling to put in a significant number of laps with Fairway Cooperative only putting in two laps and the No. 27 ASME entry not completing any laps.
Free Practice 1 occurred Tuesday, April 5, a write up for that will follow. Purdue Grand Prix free practice will continue through Saturday and pick back up Tuesday, April 12. Purdue Grand Prix Qualifying starts at 10:00 AM Saturday, April 16. The Slipstream Network will be providing live streams of practice and qualifying. For more information about Purdue Grand Prix, visit slipstreamnetwork.com/purduegp for our hub of coverage or purduegrandprix.org.