It’s tough enough to manage the off-road challenges of Baja racing in the daylight. Winning at night poses more challenges, but the RIT Baja race team topped the field in several events at the Midnight Mayhem event held in October at Nickota Motorsports Park in Bedford, Ky.
RIT Racing took three cars to the event hosted by the University of Louisville. All three placed in the maneuverability event, one took first place in the motocross event, another won the four-hour endurance race, averaging 20-second faster lap times than other competitors, said Aaron Reay, team manager.
“Midnight Mayhem is an exciting race to attend because it has a different pace and dynamic from the main series events,” said Reay, a fourth-year electrical engineering student from Pittsburgh. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), sponsors of national collegiate design series off-road events across the country, coordinates four-day competitions with multiple events including technical inspections, hill climbs and suspension challenges. All close with a four-hour endurance race and awards.
Midnight Mayhem, an off-season, unofficial competition, is condensed into one day, with tech inspections in the morning and the awards ceremony that night after the endurance race. This year, 49 race teams and 100 Baja cars from U.S. and Canadian universities competed in the eighth annual event. Teams camp at the racetrack, tenting in the woods, building bonfires and grilling food together, said Reay.
“For us, the race has two important purposes. It allows us to give new drivers a chance to drive in a real race setting, but without the pressure of one of the official series races. And since we are able to bring more than one car—we brought three this year—we are able to get a lot of people ‘seat time’ across all the events,” he explained. “Secondly, we use it as an opportunity to test out new systems or components, and record live race data.”
Deploying a new, custom data acquisition system, the team was able to capture valuable suspension and brake data during both short course events and the entire four-hour endurance race. That information will be used to design the team’s 2017 car. During the 2016 season, RIT Racing consistently placed in the top-five in the design category, as well as winning first, second and third place overall in Tennessee, Rochester and California, respectively.
This was the third year RIT Racing participated at Midnight Mayhem. The first year, the team took three cars to the race, placing first overall.
“Last year, we took five cars to the race, but a foot of clay-mud on the ground made racing difficult for everyone,” Reay said. “This year, we brought three cars and nearly swept the event. Special thanks to the alumni from the University of Louisville who do a great job organizing the event and controlling the mayhem, providing a world class Baja race in a relaxed and muddy environment.”