His teammates said Baja race competitions were like going through a 72-hour plane crash.
“That’s how it was described to me when I was a freshman,” says Tim Brogan, laughing. “I thought, ‘Wow! How does that work?’ ”
Even that rowdy description didn’t stop Brogan from joining RIT’s Baja team three years ago. That kind of excitement appealed to him, along with the challenge of building a competitive off-road vehicle that can conquer hill climbs, suspension challenges, tractor pulls and endurance races.
As this year’s team manager, Brogan leads RIT Baja Racing for its 2013 season. He and his teammates will also host national and international collegiate teams at the 2013 Baja World Challenge June 7-9 at RIT and at Hogback Hill in Palmyra, N.Y. for the dynamic events of the competition.
This is the fifth time RIT has hosted the event. It is free, and the static events are open to the public, who can view the cars and talk to members of the teams about how the cars are designed and built. Static events take place at the RIT Gordon Field House and Activities Center from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 7. Field events run from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, and from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 9, at Hogback Hill.
Preparing for a competition as the away team or the home team is not much different, says Brogan. Everyone has a job to do during the four days of competitions, setting up, getting ready for technical presentations and safety inspections to final checks before the dynamic events.
“There are acceleration events, a sled pull, hill climb where you need some power to take those events. There’s a rock crawl, and hopefully your car can get through it. The last day is the endurance race,” he says. “We love it! We are up for 18 hours, all four days.”
The secret to the team’s success is its people, its car design—and drivers with nerves of steel. A good car starts with the design, Brogan says, but a good driver has a mixture of capability, confidence and nerve. It is an earned position.
“Anyone can drive, but the best driver? You have to be confident,” says Brogan. “It’s the one who comes in and says, ‘I can drive this car’ and does it. It’s so much more than just understanding how the car works.”
When the 2013 season of national and international events was announced, it took just 16 minutes for 100 collegiate race teams to register for Baja East at RIT, says Marty Gordon, associate professor of mechanical engineering technology, Baja team adviser and event coordinator. Teams from Canada, Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil and India will compete with RIT and universities from Michigan, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Nebraska.
The last time RIT hosted the World Challenge was 2010. Brogan was in high school in Philadelphia where he grew up. He had been around cars all his life, working along side his father, Mark, an auto mechanic. Today, the third-year mechanical engineering technology major leads a team that has consistently placed in the top-five overall at U.S. events in its 20-plus years of competition.
A gallery of photos by University News photographer A. Sue Weisler from the 2010 event at RIT and Hogback Hill can be found at http://people.rit.edu/aswcmp/2010_Baja_SAE.