Baja racing is a huge thrill for the most young octane addicts. What better way to encourage the future automobile engineers of our nation than to organize an all India inter-collegiate event for Baja racing? Mahindra & Mahindra have taken the baja SAE event to college students under their wing and are helping educate and mould better automobile engineers for tomorrow.
From the 14th to the 17th of February 2013, the SAE India Baja rally, hosted by Mahindra took place at the NATRAX facility of Natrip close to Indore. The 91 college finalists took to the track for a 4-hour endurance race to the finish in their baja buggies, built solely by their college team.
Mahindra had given all the teams a 305cc, 9bhp Briggs and Stratton engine, and the freedom to use any transmission that fit. The teams had to design and engineer their buggies by themselves without any outside or professional help.
A total of 260 colleges from all over India enrolled in this years Baja SAE India event. After rigorous amounts of scrutiny in the virtual Baja design and Mahindra’s “Zero Tolerance” policy being the theme for this year’s event, a total of 120 teams qualified for the still and dynamic testing.
This year Mahindra made it a point to drive home 3 major points for their “Zero Tolerance” theme. Firstly, 100% safe, first time right. Secondly, 100% rulebook compliance and lastly, 100% ready for technical aspect. No ifs, ands or buts. No latecomers or excuses. Deadlines are deadlines. Students said that zero tolerance helps attaining better quality and getting your machine correct in the first go. It improves precision.
After inspections that touched on cost, aesthetics, fabrication quality etc, 91 teams of the 120 qualified for the driving dynamics test, which included the 4-hour endurance race. The highlight of the event where the drivers and their machines are pushed to the limit till a winner emerges.
The track was a grueling 3.8kms long with sharp corners, downhill slopes, small mounds and ditches. Being a dirt track, which was not watered down, traction was one of the issues faced by the students. Apart from the heat, the dust and the tiresome 4 hours, the participants were weary about their vehicles, which even though had passed all the tests was still to face problems through the race. After a quick pace lap the cars started off with hoots and cheers coming from the crowds and supporters.
In the first three laps, the buggy from the College of Engineering-Pune (C.O.E.P) gained a huge lead and decided to keep it. Most of the cars performed well in the initial stages of the race.
The real test was about two and a half hours into the race, where the monotony of the track was getting to the drivers and the competitive spirit was rising. As they tried to pass each other, out-maneuver their cars etc many drivers skid in the dirt and crashed and soon had problems with their machines starting.
Some buggies after constant torture on the track ended up loosing their wheels causing the drivers to pull their car out of the race. Students had divided responsibilities amongst themselves so as to ensure that their team’s race ran smoothly. There was a constant buzz in the air, with college team members cheering on their drivers or running around to get tools to fix their cars so as to put them back in the race.
The sun and dust seemed to have no effect on the enthusiasm of the students. Tension built up towards the last 45mins of the race. Car number 18 of C.O.E.P had kept its lead and was sailing towards the finish where as the battle for second place was hard and treacherous among many colleges.
The aggression increased, so did the speed and the hunger to finish in the top 10. Towards the end of the race, of 91 cars that started, around 40 teams were still on the track and all of them looked to be in a state capable of finishing the race.
The final whistle blew and the checkered flag was waved, ending the race. Whether the teams won or not, each team was overjoyed to have been part of the experience of finishing the last challenge. Something they had been preparing for, for a long time had finally come to an end and they were successful.
The first 10 cars to cross the finish line were finally scrutinized once again to make sure there were no tinkering or modifications done to the engine etc. The team from the College of engineering-Pune had a flawless victory, keeping the lead from the 3rd lap to the finish. They were ecstatic and were very confident that their buggy was one of the best.
The overall winners were announced, 1st place- College of Engineering- Pune, 2nd place- Krishna Institute of Engineering and Technology- Ghaziabad and in third place PEC university of technology- Chandigarh. These teams had won in all the categories of testing and scrutiny and hence were declared as final winners.
Baja SAE India and Mahindra have given a platform to the engineering students of our country to apply themselves with what they have learned and technically come up with their own creation that is at a competing level.
It has given the students a chance to be creative and prove their abilities in real world situation. Every year, students from all across the country build a prototype buggy meant for fun and come compete at Baja SAE India. In turn they get to develop their own skills in various aspects that are required in out-of-textbook situations, such as design, marketing and even driving.
It was a pleasure watching these bright students take on a challenge and see it through to the finish. Hats off to Mahindra and all the other sponsors for giving engineering students something to look forward to every year apart from just lectures, classes and exams.