INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a motor-racing shrine unlike any in the world. Since the first 500-mile race in 1911, this 2.5-mile track has given rise to dreams and witnessed untold heartache. Every imaginable kind of story has been lived out in this special place.
Last Saturday, four Minddrive students from DeLaSalle High School wrote their own story as they drove the Minddrive electric Indy car around the famous oval during Emerging Technology Day, which was the kickoff of the Indy 500’s centennial celebration. The students were Mario Ramirez, Kelvin Duley, Zack Knighten and Chan Brown.
Minddrive is a not-for-profit organization that was the brainchild of Steve Rees. Rees, a retired architect and former vintage sports car racer, taught at DeLaSalle for three years. He founded Minddrive to combine mentor involvement with experiential learning for at-risk teens.
The Minddrive vehicle is a Lola Indy car that was wrecked in 2002 by Jimmy Vasser in Australia. Last year, seven students and 11 adult mentors repaired the car’s carbon-fiber chassis tub, constructed a wire frame body with a transparent plastic skin and installed 21 lithium-ion batteries. The result, intended for efficiency not speed, achieved a 300 MPGe in testing at Bridgestone’s Texas Proving Grounds last August.
Innovation has long been a hallmark of the Indianapolis 500. When Ray Harroun won the first 500 in 1911 in the Marmon “Wasp,” his car sported what many think was the first rearview mirror to be used on an automobile. On Emerging Technology Day last weekend, the facility was abuzz with a new sound as the roar of the internal combustion engine was replaced by the whine of an electric motor. Activities included the Formula Hybrid race for alternative-power vehicles organized by the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, the Purdue University evGrand Prix for electric go-karts and demonstration runs by cars from the American Solar Challenge.
The Minddrive car, with a surplus aircraft canopy and a see-through body made from 3M window film, was the only one prepared by high-school students and the only one to actually drive on the track. It performed six exhibition laps.
So what was it like to drive around a track whose history is peppered with names such as A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Jimmy Clark and Al Unser?
“Indianapolis is arguably one of the greatest tracks in the world,” said Duley, “and being able to drive on it meant so much to me. I also liked talking to the students from England and hearing how they built their kart in three days.”
“I would never have believed I would have the chance to do something like this. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Knighten. “I loved it.”