Though competing in South America for the first time, RIT’s mini-Baja team is no stranger to mini-Baja challenges. RIT went to national competitions each of the last four years, and this year’s Brazilian event is the first of four mini-Baja races in which RIT will compete this spring.
RIT and other challengers will be judged in categories including acceleration, braking, hill climbing, maneuverability (even under water), speed and traction. Cars are also judged on cost, design and safety. But the real tests come in grueling, four-hour, "rough-terrain" endurance races.
Lest we neglect to mention, official rules also state, "The vehicle must be fun to drive." No problem there. "You will never eat so much mud and love it," exclaims Jason Rounds, a fifth-year mechanical engineering technology major and project manager for RIT’s teams. "It’s the greatest rush in the world to be out on the track."
In addition to earning high marks for fun, last year RIT shined in acceleration, braking, endurance, hill-climbing and maneuverability trials.
The rough-and-tumble mini-Baja cars, powered by 8- and 10-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engines, reach top speeds of around 40 miles an hour, says Jerome Fraillon, a fourth-year packaging science major and brakes team leader. He says RIT’s newly built car features redesigned brakes and wheels and is some 40 pounds lighter than cars raced last year. The dune-buggy-like vehicle also sports the visual enhancement of "tiger stripes"—in deference to RIT’s school mascot.
Over the past few months, RIT’s team worked on design and construction of three mini-Baja vehicles—a refurbished car for the Mini Baja Brazil and two others, one of them new from the ground up, for the Mini Baja West, April 26 through 28 in Manhattan, Kan.; the Mini Baja East, May 10 through 12 in Columbia, S.C.; and the Midwest Mini Baja, June 1 through 3 in Troy, Ohio.
Mini-Baja competitions are sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers.
Note: Founded in 1829 and located in western New York state, RIT is internationally recognized as a leader in engineering, imaging, technology, fine and applied arts, and education for the deaf. RIT enrolls 15,000 students in more than 240 undergraduate and graduate programs.
For the past decade, U.S. News & World Report has ranked RIT as one of the nation’s leading comprehensive universities. RIT is also included in Yahoo! Internet Life’s Top 100 Wired Universities, Fisk’s Guide to America’s Best Colleges and Barron’s Best Buys in Education.