World Final Recap: An Event to Remember
From September 11th to September 14th 2023 Horizon Educational hosted its biggest H2GP World Final yet, with students making the journey from 13 countries and every corner of the planet to Las Vegas for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to race their hydrogen-powered cars against the best competitors globally. The four-day spectacle included plenty of hydrogen-fueled action on the racetrack, but it was off the track that the momentous of the occasion revealed itself.
The highlight of the event was a visit from Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who addressed the global H2GP students and told them ‘You are our future. You’re going to make the things happen that those of us who are a little bit older couldn’t even imagine’.
Over 40,000 clean energy professionals had to opportunity to witness the race, which was held at RE+ 2023, North America’s largest clean energy conference and a landmark event for professionals involved in renewable energy.
Below you’ll find a complete, day-by-day recap of the entire four-day event from start to finish.
Day 1 – Monday, September 11th
With teams arriving from around the world on Saturday and Sunday, Monday September 11th was an opportunity for global competitors to test their 1:10 scale hydrogen cars and ensure they were in top shape for the upcoming competition.
After the track was laid down and teams began placing their cars in the lanes – spectators were exposed to a sea of colors as student’s custom-designed car bodies were seen weaving around and passing each other. These were the car bodies that students had spent the past year perfecting with the use of computer-aided design and their creative art skills. One highlight was the deep orange body of the car from the Netherlands (team Summa H2 Racing). Here students paid homage to their native country, placing images of Holland’s infamous windmills on one side of their car, while Las Vegas’s skyscrapers and casinos adorned the other side, symbolizing the team journey around the world to race their car in Las Vegas.
Day 1 was a big day for all H2GP teams in that they had to complete a difficult task: pass a rigorous technical inspection to ensure their self-built cars fell within strict competition guidelines. Ian Weiss, Technical Director for Horizon Educational, took the lead in making sure cars fell within guidelines for things like weight, ground clearance and wheel diameter.
After technical checks were complete, teams took part in two-hour practice sessions, providing all H2GP teams with an opportunity to make last-minuet fixes and perfect their cars before the qualifiers the next day. It was these qualifiers that would provide teams with a chance to make it to the ultimate race day, the final race on Wednesday, September 13th.
Day 2 – Tuesday September 12th
As Day 2 began, student's excitement, nerves, anticipation and fastidiousness were beginning to reveal themselves. Now was the one day of the year that H2GP teams were preparing for: the chance to qualify for the final race. After team’s cars hit the racetrack, the race began being broadcast on its own dedicated online livestream headed by Nick Damon and MC Leftie from RC Racing TV. Cars were seen live and around the world, zooming in and out of corners, going at blinding speeds, demonstrating the months of hard work and innovation on the part of students. Each twist and turn of the race was a testament to the dedication students showed designing and fine-turning their cutting-edge racing machines.
Off the track, many of the world’s leading clean energy corporate executives came and witnessed the action first-hand. One such industry leader was David Wu, President and Co-founder of Ascrnt Funds, an energy transition fund focusing on climate technologies, with a special focus on hydrogen.
‘We’ve been following the students from day one as they started to learn about the race’, said David. ‘It is amazing how far they’ve come along. Not only in the ability to work as a team, but this is a high-pressure sport, these cars are going very, very fast. They crash a lot, as you can see. And when they crash, you have to fix it. […] So they’ve got to understand how the fuel cell works, how it integrates with the battery pack, how it integrates with the chassis of the car, and all of that needs to be fixed and put back on the track as soon as possible. So I think that this is a great race because it puts the pressure on students to really understand the technology’.
On the other side of the Venetian Expo center, RE+’s own Keith Malone could be seen interviewing Max Accordino, Head of Bussiness Development at Horizon Educational, on the RE+ PowerUp Live Podcast.
‘Speaking to Keith Malone for RE+’s PowerUp Live podcast was the highlight of day 2 for me, as we were able to introduce even more audiences to H2GP and the fun and innovation that happens when students are challenged to build their own hydrogen-powered cars’, said Max.
By the end of the second day – and after lots of twists and turns and a nail-biting finish – 15 teams qualified for the main event the next day, with the remaining 11 teams being invited to join the RE+ 300 race on the Thursday.
Day 3 – Wednesday September 13th
Long before the sun rose over The Venetian Convention & Expo Center, local NBC news crews were bust at work conducting live interviews with Horizon Educational’s Max Accordino and Cal Devney – broadcast to Las Vegas’s 2.5 million residents and syndicated for other markets across the United States. The second and third round of live TV interviews included two students – Aaron Tong and Elena Roussanova – from Waldorf School of Orange County, speaking about the progress they made in the H2GP program over the past year.
‘When started I honestly didn’t know a lot about building cars, racing cars and hydrogen fuel cells, any of that’, said Elena. ‘Part of the process was learning about how to design things, how to apply them. And it's really exciting now to be able to come here and see all of these people who’ve put in similar effort, who know all these different things about the car. Everyone is so friendly and nice, and it’s really cool to be able to exchange ideas with the other students’.
After the interviews wrapped up, students, teachers, parents, spectators and VIP sponsors began arriving for the main event – and these spectators were filled with amazement when the Mayor of Las Vegas, Carolyn Goodman, showed up to address the students and welcome them to the event.
After addressing the students Mayor Goodman took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Kamil Jelinek, CEO of Horizon Educational; Matt W. Murdock, CEO & Founder of Raven SR; Gary Thuro, Chief Marketing and Sales Officer at RE+ Events; Max Accordino, Head of Bussiness Development at Horizon Educational, and Nicola Weiss, USA H2GP Director at Horizon Educational.
This was followed by a rendition of the national anthem by renowned opera singer Jakub Dasek. Coming all the way from the Czech Republic to honor America, Dasek gave a performance of a lifetime, with witnesses claiming he had the ‘voice of an angel’ and multiple participants claiming it was the most beautiful rendition of the national anthem they had ever heard.
Once all the pomp and ceremony had come to an end, it was finally time to race. Upon starting their engines and jetting off for the first couple of dozen laps, racers were surprised to see Team Bulgaria take a 13-lap lead after two hours. This meant that the team in second place and winners from last year – Oakwood Pink from California – had to make up this deficit and close in on Bulgaria over the next five hours to emerge victorious.
After hours of intense racing, Oakwood Pink eventually cut a break. ‘Our servo motor failed and we have to replace it right now’ a member of Team Bulgaria told Horizon. This horrendous failure of such a key component of the car had devastating consequences for Team Bulgaria. With their car in the pit for almost an hour, they dropped from first to 14th place, almost all the way down to the bottom of the table. Oakwood Pink seized the opportunity, surpassing Bulgaria by 170 laps, remaining in first place until the end of the race and claiming victory.
‘There were a lot of issues going on in the race today, we had a few ‘all stops’ for everyone, so it was just all about tracking numbers and our energy, keeping our head straight when the weird and unexpected things were happening’, said River from Oakwood School. ‘So we just kept experimenting, trying new things with our energy. We had an issue in the beginning with our fuel cell, but we worked around it, and did the best as we could to avoid issues and be consistent.’
Unexpected performances also came from the two Slovak teams – Ostrov Team and Kysuckí Strojníci – who placed second and fourth, respectively. Continually improving their cars and perfecting their hydrogen fuel cells every year, the Slovak teams were proud to place in such a high position in the world's largest hydrogen competition.
Off the racetrack September 13th was marked by numerous visits from some of the world’s leading clean energy businesspeople. Matt Mudock, CEO of Raven SR, saw the students’ work firsthand and commented on the importance of technical education in transitioning the world to a clean energy society.
Matt called technical education ‘crazy important’: ‘This is one of the reasons Raven is supporting Horizon Educational, we need another generation of really technically trained folks to really get to the next stage. We have ideas that we’re running with now that we need to improve upon, technology that has to be run efficiently today, so [technical education] is very important’.
Horizon Educational was also pleased to welcome other leading businesspeople to the track to see the cars the students made firsthand: Nandini Sankara, Vice President Marketing and Brand Strategy, and Doug Dagan, Vice President Strategic Initiatives - Renewable Energy at Suburban Propane; Judith Hall, Chief Legal Officer & General Counsel at Pine Gate Renewables and Keith Malone, Program Director, Hydrogen at RE+.
After the main H2GP race wrapped up, sponsors were invited to have a go at racing their very own hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicle in the H2GP Corporate Race. For this occasion Horizon Educational created unique and distinctive car bodies for each sponsor, some resembling large trucks and some following the design patterns of the Toyota Mirai. Wheels were seen flying across the track, car bodies were crushed and there were plenty of flipped cars – all to the sound of laughter and thrill of the adult drivers.
‘This H2GP corporate race was a great opportunity for those investing in future clean energy leaders to experience the fun and excitement of the H2GP program themselves’, said Max Accordino. ‘These sponsors are not only developing a future workforce in their communities, but they’re giving kids memories that will last a lifetime’.
Day 4 – RE+ 300
Thursday, the final day of the event, saw the 11 teams that didn’t qualify for the main race given the opportunity to take part in a ‘RE+ 300’ race, a four-hour race with a special prize given to the first team to complete 300 laps. While the race was considered a ‘second chance’ event, the quality of all teams was on display. Cars could be seen weaving in and out of corners with extreme precision and accuracy. Students took their cars to the pitstops, exchanging Hydrostiks and lithium-ion batteries in record time, working in teams. By 300 laps, the German team EGE Hydrofoxes edged out a victory to win the 300 lap prized, but at this point yet the race was far from over. As time went on, things started to become more free-wheeling. Teams were seen racing toward the 4-hour mark with excitement and glee, ploughing through every car in their way in order to become the first-ever winners of the RE+ 300. In a nail-biting finish, the ‘Trojens’ beat ‘ASE Racers’ by an incredible 2 laps out of well over 550 completed.
The four-day H2GP World Final was seen as a milestone for the hydrogen-racing series. Not only were hundreds of the world’s top H2GP racers brought together for a world-class spectacle, but their months of determination and hard work were on display for leading businesspeople to see at North America’s largest clean energy conference, RE+. This was accompanied by the largest media presence ever at an H2GP World Final, and, to top it all off, a special VIP visit from the Mayor of Las Vegas.
‘Hosting the Grand Prix and student race teams from around the world gave our attendees, exhibitors and sponsors the opportunity to see STEM education in action,” said Stephen Miner, President & CEO, RE+ Events. “It’s exciting to see them race, but, more importantly, it’s great to know that they’re developing teamwork skills and gaining an understanding and passion for clean energy technologies.’
‘40,000 people attended this conference and got the chance to witness the largest hydrogen competition in the world first-hand’, said Max Accordino at the event’s conclusion. ‘We’re looking forward to working with RE+ for future events of this magnitude, and would like to extend a special thanks everyone on their team for the amazing event they staged’.