Elbows

Is it still Blizzard if everything is melting?

In a complete 180 from the frostbite-threatening air of 2016, Blizzard Baja at this year was a summer vacation. We had a ton of fun returning to Michigan Tech regardless, and everyone got to drive around this year, even if it wasn't on the official racecourse!

"Let me adjust the settings again, there's a lot of white in there"

But backtracking to the beginning, we started out dark and early doing some final checks on Knuckles and Elbows, before passing through Tech Inspection and the infamous pickled egg dynamic event.

Waiting for Tech Inspection: even Gilly Monsters need their beauty sleep.

Waiting for Tech Inspection: even Gilly Monsters need their beauty sleep.

Before we knew it, the race was on! We were doing pretty well, switching out drivers every 3 laps for Knuckles and every 4 for Elbows.

Luke in Elbows (38) about to pass Joe in Knuckles (14).

But then - plot twist! - about an hour and a half into the race, they had to stop the cars because it was too warm and the track was turning into complete mush. The large tabletop section was still intact though, so officials had us race in a loop around the parking lot and the tabletop, and we got our remaining cats and kittens into Knuckles to take a few spins.

Newly be-whiskered!

We left tired and happy, and are excited to return next year for a hopefully moderately-frozen comp. Third time's the charm, as they say.

And thank you to the talented Amanda Nicole for her photographs! Check out her Facebook here.

Making Mayhem at Midnight

For the first time in Northwestern Baja history, the team attended the Midnight Mayhem competition hosted by Louisville Baja in Kentucky, and what a crazy day (and night) it was! Some highlights:

  • The clay that swallowed up one of our arm restraints (which will rest in KY mud forever) and doubled the diameter of our wheels
  • Elbows took 7th in maneuverability out of the 90-ish cars there
  • We got 16 (!) drivers into the seat during the endurance race, a record for the NU Baja archives
  • Elbows' back left wheel, which came off mid-turn and rolled into the depths of the KY woods at the end of endurance

It was an experience that we wouldn't have missed for the world, read on the find out more!

It was only the second weekend of school, and comp is always a great motivator for getting the cars in shipshape working order. So that's exactly what we did, even as our recruitment team was also busy getting our new members acquainted with the team.

Louisville, KY was actually the closest of the competitions that we've been to in the past few years, a mere 7 hour drive away. We arrived Friday night, and spent some time in the pits putting some bright finishing touches on the cars - brake lights (kinda important) and colorful LEDs (very important).

Elbows is ready to rumble.

Saturday dawned with no sign of the promised showers, which was good because the ground was muddy enough as it is (if there is such a thing as enough mud).

Futile mud removal attempts.

After passing Tech, we took Elbows and Knuckles over to brakes check. They both passed, although it took a couple extra tries with Knuckles.

RIP Blue Arm Restraint, which was forever lost into the inscrutable depths of the Kentucky mud. We will never forget you.

From there we moved onto the dynamic events: acceleration, maneuverability, and a motocross-style suspension.

On your marks, get set, go! Elbows (38) in the lead with Knuckles (14) following behind.

Elbows (feat. Isaac) deftly navigated his way into 7th place in the Maneuverability event!

Elbows was the favored contender in the suspension course with its better acceleration and maneuverability, and it did indeed win the first round (although Knuckles going off a small cliff helped with that). But in a bizarre twist of events that included some wooden posts being pulled up and unnecessary direction reversal, Knuckles was able to beat Elbows in the second round thanks to its highly torqued gearbox! Regardless of outcome though, it was thrilling to see two of our own cars race so closely on the track.

Head to head on the Suspension course.

After dinner and walking the track, it was soon time to grid for Endurance and the colorful chaos that involved.

University of Louisville did an awesome job with the track - there's nothing that quite compares to driving over logs and around bends in the dark while knowing there are ravines to fall down and trees to run into. Despite some quick pit stops along the way, the number of people we got to drive far exceeded our expectations. We finished the race with our 15th and 16th drivers in the seat!

Pit repair: A cluster of light and quick thinking.

And so the night ended with 21 muddy, happy Motorcats!

Full Circle - Back to Tennessee for 2016 SAE Comp

One quick eight-hour drive brought us to the land of Cookeville, Tennessee! Twenty-one team members were able to make it out to competition, including ten very excited Motorkittens who had no idea what was in store.

A few people spent a good deal of the night before Technical Inspection doing some final rules fixes, mainly on the CVT guard, but we felt good about the shape Elbows was in for the following few days.

Putting the finishing touches on Elbows in the paddocks before Tech Inspection the following morning

In fact, we had the smoothest Tech in (known) NU Baja history! However, the line was moving pretty slowly, so by the time we were halfway through our first inspection, it was time to move over to our Design Presentation slot, and we hurried over to that area. Design also went extraordinarily well, and later we learned that we tied for 21st out of 100 teams in that event. We hopped back in line for Tech after that and passed with flying colors!

Design leads talking to the judges at the Design Presentation

Design leads talking to the judges at the Design Presentation

We passed Tech and Brakes!

We passed Tech and Brakes!

Saturday was spent doing the various dynamic events - acceleration, maneuverability, sled pull, and suspension. Acceleration and maneuverability went quite well, but we ran into some issues with our sled pull and suspension events. We'd never been to a competition with a sled pull event before, and it turns out that Elbows' tow hitch is a little too low to complete the sled pull. And at the suspension event, our kill switch position was at an unfortunate location, since both of our drivers' legs hit it halfway through the course. We did get some distance points on those though!

Zooming down the acceleration lane

Zooming down the acceleration lane

Mikey and Drew expertly navigated the Maneuverability course

Mikey and Drew expertly navigated the Maneuverability course

The little engine that (almost) could!

The little engine that (almost) could!

Sunday (Endurance Day) dawned bright and sunny. Some were more ready for it than others. Many of the 'Kittens valiantly volunteered as track workers for the four hour race and had a lot of fun doing it!

Alex (foreground) looks excited for the endurance race

Alex (foreground) looks excited for the endurance race

Track workers from left to right: Chris, Blake, Spencer, Steph, Gaurav, Connor, Joe H, and Brooke

Track workers from left to right: Chris, Blake, Spencer, Steph, Gaurav, Connor, Joe H, and Brooke

We're all really proud of how competitively Elbows performed during the race. We got six drivers into the seat and had a few quick pit stops to fix brake light wiring and a dented hub, but we were on the track for the majority of the four hours. Overall, we got 47th place in the competition, up from 71st in Maryland last year!

And of course - a bucket of water for our beloved cap'n

And of course - a bucket of water for our beloved cap'n