Baja racing wraps up successful season

Team takes home Sportsmanship Award from Portland meet, places second for prestigious Mike Schmidt Iron Team Award

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A. Sue Weisler

RIT Baja racing placed in the top-10 at each of its races this season. The team will host the 2013 Baja East event in Rochester and Palmyra June 7-9.

Just off an impressive competition in Wisconsin this month, the 2012 Rochester Institute of Technology Baja Race Team had one of its most successful seasons, dating all the way back to the late 1970s, says Marty Gordon, faculty advisor to the team.

The RIT team placed in the top 10 in each of its three competitions: third at the Alabama meet in April, third at the Portland event in May and 10th in Wisconsin.

The group earned three top-five design finals appearances and received the overall Sportsmanship Award at the Portland meet.

At the June Baja SAE Wisconsin event, RIT Baja was one of four design finalists among the 98 registered collegiate racecar teams. RIT also placed second for the prestigious Mike Schmidt Memorial Iron Team Award. This national award is sponsored by RIT in memory of Mike Schmidt, one of the founding members of the RIT Baja program, says Gordon, an associate professor in RIT’s manufacturing and mechanical engineering technology/packaging science department. It is given to the team that finishes with the best overall combined performance at all three North American races.

“One of our biggest goals this year was to bring the Mike Schmidt Iron Team award back to RIT,” says Charles Borton, RIT Baja team manager and a mechanical engineering undergraduate. “We, as a team, pride ourselves on our accomplishments not only on the track but with the university and the Baja community as a whole. Even though we did not win the overall iron team award, taking second place was still a great accomplishment that was complemented by our sportsmanship awards.”

Prior to the competition, the RIT Baja team hosted the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Brazil. The teams worked, lived and socialized together before traveling to the Wisconsin competition. Even with tough, head-to-head competitions, the teams support each other at events, Borton adds.

“For years our team had a motto of ‘We aren’t ready to race until you are,’ and we stuck to that this year helping more teams than I can count,” he says. “I am more confident than ever that the team will continue to grow and move forward especially if we continue to gain support from the community and the administration.”

Gordon agreed. RIT has a tradition of hosting at least one international team every year as a way to expose the students to their international peers. The exchange has also attracted a number of international students to RIT through their familiarity with the Baja program.

“Over the past decades, RIT has established a strong international reputation as one of the best Baja teams in the world,” Gordon says. “Our reputation is built not only on the competitive successes of the team, but also on the team’s track record of providing assistance to other Baja teams—whether they are top contenders like Cornell or new teams with very few resources of their own.”

The majority of this year’s squad will return for the 2012–2013 season, and the group has been invited to compete at Baja SAE Brazil.

In addition, RIT will again host a major competition June 7–9, 2013, with the static events at RIT’s Gordon Field House and Activity Center. More than 100 national and international collegiate teams are expected. This would mark the fourth time RIT has hosted a Baja competition since 2005.

“RIT Baja alumni maintain a strong connection to RIT,” Gordon says. “Our alumni remain highly sought-after by employers and graduate programs.”