Our final competition has come and gone, but it was not without its own hard work and excitement. Fifteen members of the team made their way to the Caterpillar Testing Facility in Edwards, Illinois for the third and final SAE competition in early June. Just as important as the past two competitions, we would need another strong showing to prove ourselves as one of the best baja teams in the world.
Day 1 – Engine Tech
Edwards, Illinois was hit by a mighty thunderstorm the day before competition. Because of this, no teams could paddock as they normally would on day one. Fortunately, day one was the most relaxed day of competition, during which we only had to pass engine tech. As we were one of the first thirty teams to arrive at the testing facility that morning, we made it through engine tech without any troubles and set ourselves up for an early vehicle inspection on day two.
That evening the team prepared themselves for the busy day in front of them. The design presentation team prepared their presentation for the third time, Dave and Maude rehearsed the sales presentation hoping to earn another excellent score, and the rest of the crew readied the car to pass vehicle inspection on the first try.
Day 2 – Tech, Sales and Design
Early in the morning we had the car ready and waiting in line for our number to be called for vehicle inspection. After hearing the number nineteen, the technical inspection began and proceeded without any issues – a team egress record was even set by Sam! Following this early triumph, Dave and Maude put on their suits and poised themselves to deliver their final sales presentation of the year. The improvements to the powerpoint and delivery must have been for the better, as they set a new team record, scoring 49/50 points!
At noon, the brake test opened for all teams. This test was a struggle for the team at the past two competitions, but not in Illinois. On our first attempt, team egress expert Sam was able to lock up all four tires! This meant that the only thing left on the team’s agenda was our design presentation. Late in the afternoon, we presented and explained to our judges the detailed process of how we designed and built our car. We must have wowed the judges once again as we were awarded another trip to design finals! We placed well in design finals in Kansas and Texas, but we planned to finally crack the podium. We used every minute possible to perfectly refine our final presentation. To our joy, these refinements produced dramatic results as we placed second overall in the design finals! It was a great day for the team all round as we finished second overall in the static events!
Day 3 – Dynamics
This was the first dynamics day of the three competitions that we would start when the gates opened at 9:00am. We began with hill climb. As one of the first teams to attempt this challenge, conditions were ideal for a strong result. With Stefan at the wheel, he quickly ascended to the top of the hill in 6.08 seconds, placing us 4th! We then brought the car over to the acceleration track, hoping to continue our strong performance in this event. Stefan once again showed us the meaning of speed, as he set a great time of 5.23 seconds. We earned a 5th place result, and were only 0.02 seconds from 2nd place. We then prepared the car for the maneuverability event. After testing between competitions, we expected that our improved handling and driver training would produce a better result. Stefan set two excellent times in his runs, putting us in 13th position. The fourth event of the day was the rock crawl, one of the most challenging dynamic events in all of Baja SAE. In the past three competitions hosted by Caterpillar, only one team was ever able to successfully make it through the entire rock crawl course. After an unfortunate rollover in his first attempt, Alex managed to find his way through most of the rock garden, finishing in 7th place, and only 4.5 feet behind second place. Overall, the day was a great success as we were able to finish 4th overall in the dynamic events.
Day 4 – Endurance
We began the race in 5th position because of our excellent acceleration time on Day 3. Alex started the race by quickly moving up the track to 2nd place. Cars were frequently braking down or getting stuck on the grueling course that Caterpillar had made for us, but McGill was one of the few teams that continued to complete lap after lap. After Alex’s two hours were over, we continued to hold 2nd place behind Cornell with Clemson University right behind us. Soon after Stefan began driving, he noticed a steering issue developing. Fortunately, it was nothing major and he continued to set some of the best lap times of the day. With minutes to go in the race we held second place by a full lap, but after Stefan cleared a rock garden on the track, our back left tire’s camber link cracked. Just after the checkered flag was waved, Stefan drove the car across the finish line just ahead of 1st place Cornell, meaning we could complete a final lap. Although he tried to traverse the course a final time, the damage to the car was too great, so he chose to be towed off the track instead. Nonetheless, we got the best endurance finish ever of 2nd place for McGill Baja Racing! With three days of excellent results, we were presented with our best finish of the year at the awards ceremony – 3rd place overall!
McGill Baja Racing would like to thank all of our sponsors and supporters for making this such a successful year! We placed 4th in the Mike Schmidt Iron Team Award standings and were the top Canadian team, but we couldn’t have done it without your help! Another big thank you to Caterpillar and SAE for putting on another great competition!