RITís Mini-Baja Team Ready for Racing Action

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Eclectic team includes engineering technology, biology and medical illustration majors

PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: RITís mini-Baja team will test its vehicles beginning at 10:15 a.m., April 17, on a track located on the north side of Jefferson Road, across from the main entrance to the RIT campus.

A new logo, T-shirts and racing jerseys. Those are just some of the benefits of having a medical illustrator on your racecar team.

But everyone knows the real fun from racing mini-Baja cars is getting the new logo, T-shirts and racing jerseys . . . muddy. The fun starts after toiling for months on design and construction of the little dune-buggy-like carsóthe task for more than 30 Rochester Institute of Technology students. The team includes engineering technology, biology, information technology and medical illustration majors; females; and hearing-impaired students from RITís National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

A school yearís worth of hard work is about to climax as teammates embark on another racing season beginning with the Mini Baja Brazil, April 11-13, in Sao Paulo. A half dozen students will make the trip, the second consecutive year RIT will be the only team from the United States to compete in South America.

Racing in Brazil for the first time last year, RIT captured first place in endurance trials and two other categories and earned fifth place overall.

This yearís new car features a larger frame and newly designed components including clutch, springs, suspension and transmission. The nimble one-seater is powered by a 10-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine and can reach a top speed of about 40 miles an hour. Also new: the car is equipped with built-in paddles for efficient pond crossing.

"We have a design that will get us into the top 10," Russ Wylie, team manager and fourth-year mechanical engineering technology major, confidently predicts.

After Brazil, RITís mini-Baja team will travel to the Mini Baja West, April 25-27 in Logan, Utah; the Mini Baja East, May 9-11 at West Virginia University in Morgantown; and the Midwest Mini Baja, May 31-June 2 in Milwaukee. Later this year, RIT will again compete in the South African Mini Baja, where last year, racing for the first time, it was the only team from the U.S.

Performance at each event will be judged on acceleration, braking, hill climbing, maneuverability (even under water), top speed and traction. Vehicles are also ranked on cost, design and safety. Oh, and the cars must be "fun to drive."

The real tests come in grueling, four-hour, "rough-terrain" endurance races. Thatís when the car, along with its driver outfitted in a new racing jersey and T-shirt sporting a new logo, get muddy. But thatís what makes it so much fun.

Mini-baja competitions are sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers. RITís mini-Baja team is supported by the RIT administration, the College of Applied Science and Technology, Gleason Inc., Mahany Welding Supply Co. Inc., Modern Coating and Research Inc., Rochester Gear Inc., Swain Technology Inc. and Trans World Alloys Inc.