Kicking off an entire month of college racing tradition, Cary Racing’s Kyle Tilley led today’s Rookie Practice ahead of the 60th Running of the Purdue Grand Prix. Aditya Desai followed, 0.826 seconds back, in the No. 17 HCRC kart. Recording a time of 27.702, Abby Willis, was third fastest of the session in the No. 16 IUPUI Society of Women Engineers entry.
Tilley represented residence hall Cary Quadrangle in the No. 14 kart as the class of the field with a time of 26.667, over three-quarters of a second over the rest of the rookie field. This was the Mechanical Engineering student’s first time in a kart, competitively, in about four years – and he should be proud of the result. His time would have guaranteed him a starting position in last year’s race, a commendable 10th place starting spot. In fact, second placed Desai would have earned a guaranteed start as well, despite running on a track that hasn’t seen racing action since the end of April last year.
The first leader of the session was Tarkington Racing’s Nick Shirrell. His early-recorded time of 34.054 was soon beat by Willis’ No. 16. Tilley joined the fight knocking the top time down to 27.846 in the first half of the practice session. Willis’ IUPUI SWE kart responded once more, but Tilley had the final say before breaking for lunch.
“Honestly, I learned alot,” commented Tilley after the session. “It’s been awhile since I’ve been out on track, I raced back in middle school. The main thing we’re doing today is running as many different lines as we can, trying to figure out the fastest way around the track.”
The session was mandatory for all first-year Grand Prix participants and concluded with minimal drama. Aside from one kart losing a wheel, no serious kart failures were observed. As the rookie field acquainted itself with kart and track, many found the process less than effortless. A number of pirouetting karts made easy contact hay bales, no less frequent than at the daunting Turn 1, where the fastest drivers flat-foot the throttle and others risk dipping a tire off and tossing a chain. Though a number of local yellow flags were issues throughout the day, the field responded accordingly with heads driving ensuring a safe and fast first practice.
This year’s race is ramping up to be one of the best year’s of competition in recent history. To put this year’s rookie practice in a better context, last year’s runner up and most significant challenger to Jimmy Simpson’s fourth win Brendan Johnson recorded a best time of 27.8 during his rookie practice. This year three drivers were faster, promising excitement throughout the month of April.
With the one and only rookie practice out of the way, the rest of the field will have its first opportunity to shake down their karts next Tuesday, April 4. Regular season practice begins at 5:00 PM ET with Slipstream Network planning live coverage throughout the entire three-week stretch of practice and qualifying leading up to the main event on April 22.