MSU Baja Races


MSU will be attending all three SAE races in 2011, including Birmingham (April 14-17), Kansas (May 26-29), and Rochester (Illinois 8-11).

Designing and building a Baja car takes months of late nights and hard work, but it takes just three days to judge the success of that work by subjecting it to the extreme stresses of competition and the critical eye of industry professionals. Every SAE-sanctioned event consists of three major components: statics, dynamics and endurance.

Before a car can even be driven at a competition, it must pass a series of rigorous screenings to ensure the vehicle is safe to operate. First, the engine is checked and set to a regulated maximum RPM, ensuring the engine has not been modified. Next, the vehicle undergoes a comprehensive, itemized technical inspection administered by an industry official during which every component is checked to be within the rules and regulations provided by the organization. Finally, the braking system is passed when the car demonstrates its ability to lock all four wheels while driving. This three-part check is performed at every SAE race before a car can drive, even if the vehicle has competed in previous competitions.

Also part of the static events are the design presentation and cost report. In design, each team highlights the considerations that went in to the design of the vehicle and answers questions from a panel of system professionals e.g. suspension and steering, ergonomics, etc. The cost report totals the price of every component of the vehicle, giving the overall vehicle cost. Static events account for 350 points in the overall score for each competition.

The second day of competition tests specific designs and systems of the car in a series of timed races. These events vary by competition, but generally consist of the following: Acceleration is a simple drag-race against the clock. Suspension and traction subjects the car to bumps, turns, and drops all designed to push the car's ability to cope with all possibilities of terrain. Maneuverability demonstrates the car's steering and speed as it careens through a contorted convolution of curves. Hill climb is exactly what it sounds like, posing a steep incline littered with rocks and other obstacles. The rock climb, designed to test torque and ground clearance, is often the most punishing event more cars often flip over than finish. The pulling event pits the car against a weighted sled as it traverses a variety of terrains. A total of 300 points is awarded for all dynamic events.

The most exciting day of competition is saved for last: the endurance race puts all the cars on the same track at once, subjecting them to a gauntlet of car-crunching obstacles. Vehicles never drive the entire time, having to make pit-stops for fuel and driver changes. If a car breaks down, it can be towed back to the team's trailer for repairs before re-entering the race. All these aspects make this part of the competition incredibly exhilarating for observers and participants alike. Whichever team completes the most laps around the track at the end of four hours is declared winner and awarded 400 points in the overall competition. After the endurance race, the points are tallied from static, dynamic, and endurance events and the team with the most points out of 1050 is declared the winner.

Tom SheldonComment