Students prove pedal power in Corniche car competition

Schools and universities competed on the Abu Dhabi Corniche for the best, fastest and most urban-designed pedal cars.

November 7, 2010, Abu Dhabi, UAE: 

The F1 Fanzone on the Corniche next to 30th street held a push petal competition. Schools from the area (ranging from secondary schools to universities) had teams of students design push petal cars which were then judged to detemrine winners in three categories (best urban design, best racing design, and most outrageous).

Members of the Rub Al Khali School's team, The Falcons, show off their car to the judges. 
Lee Hoagland/ The National
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Apparently, Formula One is not just about horsepower. One sunny afternoon this week on the Abu Dhabi Corniche, it was also about pedal power. I was on a panel of judges casting our eye over pimped out pedal cars with prizes awarded for design and performance, as determined at the end of the day with time trials on a 200m stretch of footpath.

With Kanye West tickets up for grabs for Best Urban Design, Best Outrageous Design and Best Racing Design, competition was going to be fierce. After all, the competitors were young and far more conversant with the music of Kanye West than I am.

Fifteen teams, from schools and universities, took their turn to show their designs and talk us through their work. It was clear from the start that some of the teams were more interested in winning the race at the end of the day, others favoured style over substance and some tried to achieve a combination of both, with varying degrees of success.

The American International School's entry, a rugged Jeep-like contraption, impressed the judges with its road safety features. The team had fitted seatbelts to their car and a padded rollcage. However, when it came time to prepare for the race, the guys pulled out saws and, with 10 minutes to spare, hacked the rollcage off for better racing aerodynamics.

It was a great afternoon for the two all-female teams from Zayed University. One team, RSMAH, ended up taking the Best Racing Design title with their immaculate red machine complete with a streamlined nose and padded seats.

The other Zayed University team, Head Over Heels, went unashamedly for style over speed with a giant pink-and-black high heel car. They were deserving winners of the Best Outrageous Design prize and it didn't seem to matter that they scored a leisurely time of 49.65 seconds on the race course, more than 20 seconds behind the winner. Excellently, one of the Head Over Heels team competed in a pair of towering heels to rival the car.

But when it came to the time trials to judge the speediest car, the competition really heated up. After a few practice runs, it became clear that a sub-30-second time would most likely be a winner.

There were some standout performances among the cars that were not necessarily pretty but were built with aerodynamics in mind. Abu Dhabi Men's College No 1 created a streamlined car that resembled a low-lying tandem bicycle, posting a time of 31.73 seconds. Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi Men's College No 2 did a similarly respectable time of 32.25 seconds in a retro-inspired turquoise car complete with working headlights powered by a battery.

But the fastest team, Falcon 1, made up of students from Dr Petar Ber High School of Mathematics in Varna, Bulgaria, currently on study leave in Abu Dhabi, combined speed and style. Their gold-tinted desert camouflage machine, named Rub Al Khali, complete with a sunset-over-the-dunes scene on the windscreen, won the time trials with a blistering 27.97 seconds run. Cue scenes of extreme jubilation, and the crowd was liberally sprayed with pomegranate fizz in a mock podium presentation.

*This story was updated to correct the name of the winning school