THE first corner took no prisoners in the first hour of the HPV Grand Prix in Bendigo on Saturday, as no less than five vehicles ploughed into the safety barrier.
But once the riders got used to the pace, they were – on the most part – able to handle the bend with ease.
Dozens of schools from across the state took part in the nine-hour race on the course around Deborah, Thistle and Abel streets in Golden Square.
Maiden Gully Primary School has performed well in recent events, claiming first and second places in junior categories, but even they struggled with the fast first turn.
The school’s human-powered vehicle “Taco Gully” was involved in four crashes in the first few hours.
Team co-ordinator Russell Marland said all of the students avoided injury, and they were able to patch up their vehicle and get it back on the track.
“They’re absolutely strapped in there so when crashes occur, they aren’t too dangerous,” he said.
“We’re on the track with adults today so I think some of the kids are trying to keep up with them, and misjudging that corner.
“They don’t have the weight in there to keep them on the ground.
“The marshalls just come over and give it a check-up, then we’re back on the track. They did say one more spill and we’re out, though.”
Twenty-three students from Maiden Gully Primary School take part in the program, training three times a week on bicycles, at the go-kart track and at the Tom Flood Sports Centre.
The students are involved in all aspects of the upkeep of the vehicles.
The Bendigo event is part of a series across Victoria, with races in Wonthaggi, Knox and Casey before the main event in Maryborough in November.
Eaglehawk Secondary College’s vehicle “Care Factor” was in the lead in the early stages of the race, driven by team captain Josh Clarke.
Team co-ordinator Warwick Dundas said they were hoping to match their competitiveness from a few years ago.
“We were very competitive a couple of years ago,” he said.
“This year we’ve been able to fundraise enough for a trailer and another vehicle.”
Eaglehawk was among the first schools in Bendigo to take part in the event, which was originally held at the saleyards in Huntly. It was later moved to the Deborah Triangle area where it became an official part of the tour.
Some Bendigo schools have only just started to become involved.
Lightning Reef Primary School had one vehicle in the race, and was competing for its third year.
Team manager Tim Curtain said it was sometimes a struggle to fund repairs and maintenance of their vehicle, but seeing the teamwork from the students made it all worthwhile.
“We have 18 students in our squad, some will race while others might be filming or taking pictures,” he said.
“We use the Bendigo event as a way to practice ahead of Maryborough later in the year. We’ve been preparing all year.
“We’d love to have two cars, but it’s just so expensive. We’re always looking for more sponsors.”