So where to begin? Well on the morning of Tuesday 13th December I could have likened my emotions to the opening lines from Beverley Cravens Promise me (although she seemed perfectly happy to discuss 4 am as if it were a common occurrence in someone’s day), but 4am was indeed the beginning of our journey to the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) annual show in Indianapolis and a trip to Manchester airport and then a 7-hour flight was the first leg of our trip. This was my favourite flight as it was empty, so we were able to spread out and make the most of the time.
I did this by choosing the only seat with a dodgy earphone socket, so always the engineer I fashioned a securing wedge from a business card and went about watching 4 movies back to back only stopping for the in-flight meals and the occasional elbow bop from the drinks cart as I fell asleep into the aisle!
Never the less we made it to our first American airport, Philadelphia where we had just enough time to take in some local food which incidentally has to be the best Chicken burger I have had in a long time! Thanks Smashburger!
Having refuelled it was time to get on our second flight of the day, Philadelphia to Indianapolis. Less frills on this flight but the free pretzels somewhat made up for the seating position!
Having landed at Indianapolis we wasted no time (after the usual customs queues) finding a cab and setting off on our final leg of the trip to the JW Marriott which conveniently for us linked to the convention centre (sorry, I think it may have been put better by the local couple who informed us that the majority of Indianapolis could be reached through the Gerbil runs!). Although there were a couple of interesting sights at the airport for us to take in before jumping in a cab, namely this Lotus 1968 race car;
For me the trip to the hotel was as exciting as the impending show, the sight of the smoke pluming from the gutter systems is a sight I’ve only really seen in films so to me (sad) that was cool. After arriving at the hotel and being checked in by what I would say (at that moment) was the politest human being I have ever met (I was soon to find that this was the norm here, Americans are just so pleasant!) for some food and drink before settling in for an early night, the next day we would be up early and on our way to sort out our stand for the first year of attendance at the PRI show!
Well what can I say? Having attended many Motorsport and Engineering events around the UK and Europe I thought I knew what to expect when we arrived at the convention centre, oh was I wrong!
As we descended the elevator from the aforementioned gerbil run, I was met with a couple of stalls, and upon looking left, watched them dissolve into the vast array of stalls that disappeared out of sight down the first corridor. Bear in mind that we haven’t even entered the show yet, we’re literally on the door step!
It’s quite difficult to put into words just how vast this show is, for what there was in width, there was also in depth, a maze of rooms and corridors all bursting at the seams with all sorts of automotive and motorsport paraphernalia. Having found registration (and a map) we set off to find our stall (4454 to give you a clue to the size of this event!). As you can imagine we couldn’t fit the Evora GTE in our suitcase (we like to take this with us for the sheer wow factor it brings) so we had to go with what we could source locally, or post over (2 of 3 boxes made it there safely at least).
Minus a car you’d think the stand would look lost but you’d be wrong, it screamed out the main point of why we were there, to promote the National Motorsport Academy for what we do specifically, The World First Motorsport Online Degrees;
We’d set aside a day to set up the stand, after all we weren’t entirely sure what to expect but I have to say, the systems in operation at the PRI show are nothing short of efficient! We were in and set up by lunch time so we decided to take in a few of the sights in the local area. The local couple from earlier were right, between the Gerbils runs and Malls, you can literally navigate the centre on Indianapolis in air conditioned warmth, which given it was below zero at times was a welcomed option!
Just as we were wandering out of the convention centre we spotted some commotion in one of the rooms, peeking in around the corner I made our first video that you’ll have seen on our Facebook page – the Hotrodders of tomorrow challenges, a joint competition across the SEMA and PRI events. Teenagers raced against each other and the clock to build LS engines to the standards expected by the motorsport teams they aspire to be a part of upon leaving high school. Let me tell you, it was extremely impressive to watch these teams work, some like a Swiss watch, clock work and although some may have been a little more frantic, the crowd gave each team a warm cheer of encouragement at every opportunity, what a great atmosphere and a lovely way to see the PRI show starting off.
Mind going on a coffee run?
As minor as this sounds, it again gives gravity to the vast size of the PRI show. It took me 8 whole minutes to navigate a direct route from the main entrance to our stand (I know this because I filmed it, see our FB page. This trip led to the most entertaining experience of customer service which has to go to the girl at the Starbucks counter who likened my accent to something out of a Charles Dickens novel! (I‘m sure my Northern accent would be more likened to Roy Chubby Brown so this made me laugh more than her I think!).
Less about the build up, on with the show!
The next morning, we were right into the thick of it! We hit the floor running and being one of the only visual Higher Education presences at the show we were instantly met with peering eyes, wandering glances and questions about why we weren’t around 25 years ago!
Whilst at the show we certainly noticed a trend, NASCAR, Drag cars and Dirt circuit race cars is what America appears to be all about, and they love it! With a dash of street cars, Indy cars and some high level Engineering tech thrown into the mix, which essentially summed up the show. If, however you think that you would be able to whiz around this show in a day though think again, we lost Kevin for what must have been four hours at one point, he returned only to stock up on flyers and then was gone again. This was a real positive note for us, clearly the idea of Online Motorsport Engineering Degrees is a new and welcomed subject of conversation at the PRI show.
We did wonder how we would be received in America, after all, British degrees are a sought after commodity and we were pleasantly met with questions from all age ranges and all walks of life. Kids as young as high school were interested to learn about future options in education for them and more seasoned (is that a fair analogy) individuals from the industry found it incredibly interesting that we offered a BSc top up and bespoke ‘choose your FDSc modules’ for those that already had relevant mechanical engineering qualifications.
Our flexibility to accommodate individual’s personal circumstances really seemed to suit the attendees of the show.
What about the stands, what was there to see?
As stated above, the variety of tech and bling on show at PRI was overwhelming! But being a petrol head by occupation and hobby, this was a welcomed attack! So here comes the array of images snapped throughout the weekend. A couple of things to know here, 1. There was no way we could have taken a picture of every single stand, 2. I fully believe that images of vehicles will be more appreciated here than pictures of seals and prop shafts (although I took plenty of this stuff too!).
So onto the images
These are just a small glimpse at the show, you can’t capture it on a camera, you really need to see it for yourself.
Check out our Facebook page for the live videos and extra photos taken whilst at the event!
Change of plans
Unfortunately, our final day of the trip started off with a slight hitch, flight cancellation due to snow in Chicago and a re-route to New York the following day. What now? Well, when in Indy and its Sunday, game day, what else other than take in some of the local entertainment?
All in all, the team here at the NMA feel that our first visit to PRI was a success, and we’ve taken plenty on board in preparation for next year’s visit. So watch this space, next year’s visit will be even bigger and better than this one! Having bought some memorabilia hoodies at the football but not having purchased anything at the PRI show, I’m left travelling into the holiday period with the following feeling;
Merry Christmas to everyone, and a prosperous Motorsport and Academic new year to all!
Wayne Gater - NMA Curriculum Manager