Rochester Institute of Technology’s Baja SAE off-road racing team travels to Brazil this weekend to open its 2009 season. The RIT team is the only U.S. representative in the first international competition.
The Baja SAE collegiate race season consists of three regional competitions with one required international challenge. The RIT team selected Brazil from one of four international sites (including Korea, South Africa and India) to open the season. “By far, Brazil is the most competitive,” says Chris Crowley, RIT Baja team manager. The RIT team will be one of more than 70 teams expected.
“The cars are more durable than before with better endurance,” says Crowley. “The team members really have a passion for this, for learning and excelling in the competition, especially with the international component.” The fourth-year mechanical engineering student from Boonville, N. Y. says the experience is a chance for the students to test what they have learned in the classroom.
The students on the team are all fourth and fifth-year mechanical engineering or mechanical engineering technology students. Teams design, test and build off-road racing vehicles, similar to real-world design projects for industry customers. Nine of the 30-member RIT Baja team will travel to South America.
“Drivers with more experience race the different aspects of the competition,” says Crowley, referring to the segments such as suspension and traction, acceleration and endurance challenges for example. RIT has consistently placed in the top 10 in the categories, and in the top three overall in past years.
The RIT team will fly to Sao Paolo then do final preparations on the car in Piracicaba, home to Centro Universitario de FEI, the home team’s shop.
“We’ve had a relationship with the Brazilian team that won in Rochester in 2007 and in Montreal in 2008,” says Crowley. “We’ll work on the car in their shop, then travel the three hours to the race site. On the way back, we’ll stop there again and hang out with their team.”
The RIT Baja car will be officially unveiled in a campus ceremony at 4 p.m. on April 4 in the foyer area of the Louise Slaughter Building. Three more races are scheduled for the RIT team—Alabama, April 16-19; Oregon, May 7-10 and Wisconsin, June 11-14.