Dust, dirt and drama all over the incredibly expansive facility of NATRiP (National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project) near Pithampur, near Indore, for the past three days and this day was the climax.
The zeroth day was all about getting the vehicle validated, through technical inspection, safety scrutiny, ‘figure of 8’ test, brake test and emission presentation for ‘Go Green’ Award. Every individual of every upto-25-member team had more than one vital role to play and meticulous planning had to be done to earn every point upto 1,000 to claim the title.
It is not just about getting the screws and bolts in place and kicking up sand on the track. The amazing aspect of SAE Baja is that a team that hasn’t won even one of numerous awards could secure first place overall and take the title home. It is all about points and hundreds of officials scrutinise every one of 122 teams (shortlisted from 323 last year) during each event and even while no one was watching.
On day 1, inspections of day zero continued for whoever is left out, and dynamic events began for the teams who have cleared. Dynamic events included Acceleration test, Hill Climb / Traction test and Manoeuvrability test and Speciality event.
This is also the day eBaja teams commenced dynamic events. By the way, eBaja is simply Baja vehicle powered by pure electric powertrain supplied by Mahindra Reva, and this was the first edition of eBaja event in the 8 year history of Baja SAE India.
In the first year, 12 teams participated and 8 made it through various inspection and were cleared for endurance / durability race, which was scheduled for day 2. Through the excruciating durability track, the electric Baja buggies endured as much as the drivers did, where meeting the chequered flag at the end of race was considered more difficult than attempting to complete most number of laps on the 4.5 km circuit for victory.
Same with petrol-powered Baja vehicles, only 74 of which stood on the grid on day 3, cleared for take off. By the end of the four-hour endurance event, only a few cars sustained and many met with accidents or experienced breakdowns. As much as the team members / students who were involved in engineering and manufacturing of the in-campus made ATVs, the drivers were to be appreciated for their persistence and determination. Even when some of the cars gave up, the drivers did not loose hope and kept pushing till the last fatal breath of the machines.
Some of the teams with past experience made the cars earlier in time and tested in their colleges, but some were still working till the race started, drivers of which teams were driving their cars for the first time, in the torture track! And still managed to outpace many.
Also Read – Bajaj 2015 winner and list of 9 awards secured by the same team.
When endurance race was over, top 10 cars were pulled aside for special scrutiny, for possible malpractice with engine. The motor was a 303 cc Briggs & Stratton 10 HP engine, supplied to the teams at a subsidised price, as usual. Final inspection is done as the engine was not to be retuned or tampered with at any point of time, which would result in brutal disqualification. Apart from the engine, all other systems including gearbox were let to be designed on their own or tweaked with (in case of using an OEM product).
Best of all, the story doesn’t end here. Around 350 students were shortlisted based on initial aptitude tests for final round of HR meet for the next two days, most of whom would get through to start their careers at core industry & sponsors of 2015 Baja SAE India event.
Here is the list of winners of all awards at Mahindra Baja 2015: