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Bristol 24-Hour Race

It all started in Bristol!

Pedal-car racing started in Bristol with an annual 24-hour pedal car race during University Rag Week and was devised by the university's School of Mechanical Engineering. It first took place on a circuit around College Green in 1960 until it outgrew the location and moved in 1966 to the former Whitchurch aerodrome, now Hengrove Park in south Bristol. Memories of a 1968 competitor (Event Organiser Rob Harris then an architecture student) are a little hazy but teams seemed to come largely from colleges and training institutions around the country: the Rolls Royce aero-engineering apprentices from Filton (north of Bristol) and mechanical engineering students were particularly successful. The university's own teams represented departments and halls of residence. The race took place at the very end of February, which in 1968 at least, made for a very cold, wet night. The last race took place in 1987 with only one team from the university participating, the Air Squadron and by this time the race had migrated to Durdham Down, near some of the halls of residence.

See the archive section of this website for more pictures and historical news cuttings.

Meanwhile pedal car racing has been taking place in the UK under British Federation of Pedal Car Racing rules as well as in France, Italy, Hong Kong, Australia and the USA. This is all part of growing interest around the world in racing human-powered vehicles: check the website of the British Human Powered Club.


The time is right to revive this exciting endurance race. The city of Bristol offers a unique streetscape which we are now celebrating with events such as the monthly Make Sunday Special, when parts of the Old City are devoted to street markets and entertainment. This has developed into a regular weekend closing of selected Old City streets so that people can once again enjoy the freedom to wander.

The city itself has changed enormously since the racing heydays. The then-declining industrial docks and railway sidings have been transformed into the Harbourside for recreation, culture, living and commerce, enjoyed alike by Bristolians and the increasing number of visitors to England's sixth city.

This new race combines the magic of the Monaco Grand Prix and the endurance of Le Mans but with human-powered pedal cars in tune with Bristol's status as Britain's first Cycling City (despite all those hills!) and as Europe's 2015 Green Capital.