PHOTOS: Boston Police Athletic League Grand Prix

The Seaport district transformed into a racetrack this weekend for Boston Police officers to fulfill their need for speed—all in the name of good fun and fundraising, of course.

By | Arts & Entertainment |
Boston Police Athletic League Grand Prix

Photos by Margaret Burdge

Boston’s NASCAR fanatics didn’t have to travel far this weekend to get their adrenaline fix thanks to the fifth annual Boston Police Athletic League (BPAL) Grand Prix.

On Saturday, the Seaport district was transformed into a European-style karting racetrack for the event, which raised money for youth development in the city. Money raised directly benefits youth service officers in Boston, funding cops’ and kids’ activities.

“You don’t want [kids] to see the cops as a threat,” said BPAL Chairman Neal Rossi. “You want the kids to see them as a resource to help.”

Providing everything from martial arts classes to Duck Tours, and funding 12 passenger vans to transport kids in “little buses” as opposed to police cruisers, the work BPAL does affects more than 5,000 underprivileged children in Boston, said Rossi. These events are possible thanks to funds raised at events like the Grand Prix.

This year, 13 corporations (mainly Boston staples like Citibank) gave $10,000 each to have four to six riders participate in the Grand Prix, and more bought banners advertising on the track fence, raising in excess of $150,000 in total for the event. Three corporations chose to give money, but not send racers, in which case Boston Police officers took their place.

“Being a professional racecar driver, you’re always presented with the question, ‘What does it feel like?,’” said RJ Valentine of F1 Boston in Braintree, who put together the racetrack for the event. “You can never explain to somebody what it’s like. This is probably what most closely simulates competition, but [it's] not at the level of a racecar driver.”

This year, for the first time, the four-hour endurance race was accompanied by a carnival, food and drink vendors, and other activities for those watching the event.

Below, check out some of the racing and activities that took place at the BPAL Grand Prix:

Boston Police Athletic League Grand Prix

“The youth service officers used to get a lot of federal money,” said Rossi. “All that money is sort of gone now, so we fund their requests.” Without racers like this one who came out to support the cause at the Grand Prix, these funds would not be possible.

Boston Police Athletic League Grand Prix

Paint Nite, one of the sponsors for the event, got viewers’ creative juices flowing with a tutorial on how to paint a city skyline.

Boston Police Athletic League Grand Prix

Karts whipped around turns, helmed by anyone from first-timers to professional racecar drivers.

Boston Police Athletic League Grand Prix

None of the drivers had to go hungry thanks to food provided largely from services donating their time, including Shake Shack, The Sausage Guy, Towne Stove and Spirits, and more. A beer and wine garden also tempted visitors who wouldn’t be behind the wheel.

Boston Police Athletic League Grand Prix

Above, drivers stand along the sidelines, waiting for their chance to take the wheel.

Boston Police Athletic League Grand Prix

Event staff issued warnings and penalties for contact with other karts.

Boston Police Athletic League Grand Prix

From a juggler to face-painting to balloon animals, the carnival area of the event kept families plenty busy.

Boston Police Athletic League Grand Prix

The track wound down Seaport Boulevard between Northern Avenue and Boston Wharf Road.

Boston Police Athletic League Grand Prix

Above, a participant pulls up to the pit for a driver change, which happened about every 12 minutes over the course of the four-hour endurance race.