The McGill Baja Racing Team is back from the last official SAE competition of the 2013 season, hosted by Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. We placed first overall out of 100 registered teams, McGill’s best ever finish! Among the other highlights of the competition, we also placed 2nd in Overall Dynamic Events, first in both Hill Climb and Acceleration, and made it into Design Finals!
A huge thanks goes out to all our sponsors and supporters, without whom none of this would have been possible. Read on for a day-by-day summary of the competition!
Day 1 – Thursday
We arrived early at the RIT campus to line up for registration and engine technical inspection. With the trailer parked and the pit set up, we sailed through engine tech and into another Cost Audit. Overall, the day went very smoothly despite the endless rain.
Day 2 – Friday
Since we arrived so early on Thursday, we were one of the first Bajas to be let into technical inspection. Unlike at the previous competition in Washington, we passed on the first try! Next was the design presentation. The team was much better prepared and we were anxious to present our design to the judges. Mike took care of the introduction and system integration. Sam handled frame and ergonomics design while Zach and Myriam presented the drivetrain. Finally, Jeremie and Maude showed how the suspension, steering, and brakes worked together. Overall, the team felt that the event went well.
Our efforts and hard work were later rewarded when the design judges announced car #27 from McGill University as a design finalist! This is really a landmark achievement for the team, being the first time the team ever presented in design finals. We quickly scrambled to prepare a six minute presentation on what was unique about our car. Four minutes were allocated at the end for questions from the design judges. We had to wait until Sunday for the final rankings, when we learned we tied for 7th place, a very good finish for the first time in design finals!
Day 3 – Saturday
The Dynamic events were held on Saturday at the Hogback Hill motocross track. Each team was given two attempts at each of the four events: Acceleration, Manoeuvrability, Hill Climb, and Suspension & Traction.
Thanks to the rainy weather of the last few days, all the tracks were very muddy and slippery. Based on the lessons learned during the Washington competition, we planned to do a run for each event in the morning and then wait until the afternoon to see how the track evolved.
After getting to the track early, Stefan quickly got ready for hill climb and we made it into line among the first ten teams to attempt the event. In 7.89 seconds, MB13 made it up the same hill that defeated MB10 back in 2010. Next, we lined up for acceleration. On our first run, we got 5.58 seconds. Finally, we lined up for manoeuvrability. The track was very tight with a lot of muddy sections. We had previously taken MB13 to the practice track to refine our setup, which led to us lowering the tire pressures to get more traction in the deep mud. On his first run, Stefan got 156.29 seconds with zero penalties.
The team then went back to the pits to change drivers for the extremely tricky and tight Suspension and Traction course. As we were changing, Alex noticed a lot of compliance in the front suspension. Upon taking a closer look, we discovered a crack all around the tube behind one of the upper suspension mounting points! Mike and Sam quickly broke out the welder and masterfully welded the tube back together. This delayed us by about an hour, but we still had time to get in line for Suspension and Traction before it closed for lunch. Jeremie made it through 964 feet of the track before getting MB13 stuck over a log. On the way back to the pits, we discovered that he had also snapped one of the shifter cables during the run.
After a delicious lunch from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Alex and Myriam expertly replaced the broken shifter cable with a spare throttle cable. RIT had beaten our morning acceleration time by 0.01 seconds, so we headed back to the event to take back the crown. To shed as much weight as possible, Stefan decided to remove all his undergarments. This time, MB13 posted a time of 5.496 seconds, which was the fastest time of the day! We then headed for hill climb where Cornell had completed a run in 7.52 seconds hoping that with the drier track, we could beat our time from the morning. Once again, MB13 was able to improve and we made it up in 7.29 seconds. Another top time!
Then, we lined up for manoeuvrability. The line up was long and we ended up waiting for about an hour. When our turn came, Stefan barely used reverse and was able to drastically improve his time to 107.99 seconds including a minor penalty. With this result, it became clear that all three of Stefan’s runs without underwear were better than his runs with underwear, a fact which will certainly be included in future driver training sessions. To wrap up the day, we headed for our last run on the Suspension and Traction course. Only three teams managed completed the course, which is a testament to its difficulty. Unfortunately, Jeremie was unable to improve as the car slid out of bounds and DQed.
Overall, the team was extremely happy with its performance in the dynamic events, ending the day with two first place finishes! The team stayed at the site for the evening to disassemble the car and weld supports for the cracked tubes in the frame as well as inspect all the components. One concern was the driveshafts, which were noticeably twisted. Unfortunately, we forgot our spare in Montreal, so we would just have cross our fingers for endurance. Another issue was the front uprights and spindles which had developed some play. Thanks to the generosity of the RIT team, we were able to use their shop to knurl our spare spindles and press them into the uprights.
Day 4 – Sunday
The starting order for the endurance race was based on the ranking of the acceleration event, so MB13 started in the pole position followed by RIT and Michigan – Ann Arbor. MB13 got the holeshot and sprinted ahead but it quickly became apparent that the car was slower than usual. Also, the engine started to smoke two laps in. Thankfully, the smoke stopped and MB13 seemed to be going strong, although Cornell quickly caught up and overtook us. Thirty minutes into the race, Mike drove into the fuelling pits to switch goggles because the track was so muddy, but since the driver communication system was broken, we had no idea he was there! Once the crew arrived, they switched out the goggles and we scrambled to get back on the track after losing valuable time. After this almost happened a second time, we decided to leave someone at the pit at all times during the race in case of emergency.
The next two hours went by without a hitch. However, midway through the race, Mike got out of the car and said that he couldn’t drive any more. The seat cushion was digging into his back and was too uncomfortable for him to continue. Alex quickly ran over and took the seat, and we got back on the track and started climbing up the ranks again. In the end, we finished the endurance race in 5th place. This led to another McGill first: the post-race quarantine, where technical inspectors inspect engine RPM, CVT weights/springs, drivetrain ratios, and tire sizes to make sure that the car is set up according to the technical sheet that was submitted at technical inspection. It was during this process that we learned the engine air filter had been full of oil for the whole race! After a few minutes of deliberation, the inspectors ruled that everything was in order, making our 5th-place finish official!
After completing the race and packing up the trailer, the team headed back to the hotel for some quick showers and a few minutes of rest before the awards banquet in the evening, where we received the trophies and learned of our first-place finish!
Here is a summary of the results from Rochester 2013:
- 1st Overall
- 19th Cost
- 7th Overall Design
- 6th Design Finals
- 1st Acceleration
- 1st Hill Climb
- 10th Manoeuvrability
- 19th Suspension & Traction
- 2nd Overall Dynamic Events
- 5th Endurance
The McGill Baja Racing team is extremely happy with its results this season. Not only did we achieve the best competition results in team history in both events, but we also met or exceeded all of the team goals for this year, including making it into design finals! Once again, we would like to thank our sponsors for their continued support! We could not have done it without them. The team is excited to be back next year with a new design and better car! Be sure to check our Facebook page and our Flickr for the latest pictures of the competition!