When Nicky Whelan from Coxy’s Big Break arrived in Maryborough last November, it was the first time she’d visited the regional Victorian town. The RACV Energy Breakthrough certainly made a lasting impression on her, and whilst Channel 7 screened the episode on Sunday, Febuary 12, this article appears on Coxy’s website at: www.coxy.com.au

It’s the ultimate do-it-yourself “green” grand prix – a motoring marathon that puts sustainable energy in the spotlight. It attracted 260 teams from schools throughout Victoria, competing with cars they designed and built themselves.

Petrol power, battery power and even pedal power – these hi-tech racers come in every shape and colour.

The RACV Energy Breakthrough race has been held for the past 15 years, and it certainly kick starts the central Victorian town of Maryborough, which is just over a two- hour drive from Melbourne.

This is a race all about cars and engines, but if you thought it was all boys and their toys, think again.

Nicky met up with a crew from Melbourne Girls’ College, to see what they’d prepared for the race. They had 10 drivers, a support crew of 30 and a car shaped like a grey nurse shark. They chose the endangered creature because it is extinct in Victorian waters, and they wanted to raise awareness.

Like any Grand Prix, these cars must conform the rules, so it was a nervous wait while chief scrutineer Greg Hill checked over their wheels.

In this race, long months spent in preparation are put to the test.

This event may be for schools but it’s definitely not child’s play. It’s a gruelling epic of 24 hours duration and more than 500 kilometres in distance.

These cars can shake rattle and roll with the best of them – especially roll. One unlucky driver had to be rescued by the RACV’s roadside assistance.

The Energy Breakthrough is a joint project of the RACV and the Education Department. This is a serious learning business, with students combining studies in maths, science, sport and social studies to compete in this incredible event. It’s also an endurance event. Both cars and students can get overheated at this event, which races through the night and into the following day. Don’t worry, there are plenty of medics on hand to sort out any problems.

Once the chequered flag is waved, exhausted drivers are inundated by their support crews and families. Trophies are awarded in more than 20 divisions, but for everyone taking part, just finishing the race is the greatest reward.

Reporter – Nicky Whelan 12/2/2006