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.

Blizzard Baja 2016

This past weekend, 20 of our team members went up to Michigan Tech University in Houghton, MI for the annual "Blizzard Baja" competition. We brought Knuckles, and our Formula team fixed up our old car, Spot, so he came along as well. It would be the first time at winter comp for our current members, and the first time at any comp for all of our new Motorkittens.

Race day dawned bright and early and very very cold - a high of 3 degrees Fahrenheit (and that's without windchill!). 

Setting up the tent in front of the trailer, sheltering Knuckles and the team from the wind.

After some last adjustments to the shocks, wheels, and CVT guard, and we passed Tech Inspection without much trouble.

We were intrigued by the dynamic event, especially the pickled egg component. We decided Sarah and Faye would make the fastest driver change, and Karl bravely volunteered for the egg consumption.

Karlllll, eat the egg faster!

And as always, pancke making by Jared was in full swing, with some grilled cheeses being thrown into the mix this time around.

Yes, that is pancake being fed through a helmet.

Before we knew it, it was race time. Joe was up first, and we decided to switch drivers every three laps to give more people a chance to drive. After an incredibly fast 10-minute brake bleed fix, Joe was followed by Drew, Faye, Mikey, Isaac, Sarah, Eric, Alex, and Jared, which brought us to 9 drivers, 26 laps, and around 3.5 hours in the 4 hour race. At that point, a shaft in the gearbox broke, which we decided to fix back at school.

Overall, we had a blast this weekend, and are very happy with our performance! For more pictures, check out the Blizzard Baja 2016 Album and our Facebook page.

The cold never bothered us anyway

Blizzard Baja 2015 decisions

The very morning of the day we were planning to be leaving for Houghton, MI and Blizzard Baja, we had to make the very difficult call to stay on campus and not compete.

Rewinding to the past few months of improving Knuckles' design, the past few weeks of countless hours in the shop, we all had the end goal in mind of racing at this competition. It culminated into furious work the night before (and into the morning), as we were putting what we thought would be the final adjustments on the assembly and loading up the trailer in the frigid weather. However, in the morning, we realized that a combination of issues including a broken rear bearing and deflated shocks would most likely prevent us from racing even if we did make the 7 hour drive north.

This definitely came as a disappointment for everyone who has put so much heart and time into trying to make Winter Comp happen, but it will give us time to recuperate and catch up on sleep. And now we know exactly what to focus on, and will be more ready than ever for the upcoming spring competition in May.

Blizzard Baja Cancelled

Due to insane blizzard storms, the Blizzard Baja has been cancelled and rescheduled for next month. We had incredible momentum and unmanageable exhaustion, so this news is both a huge relief and a huge blow to moral. Tomorrow we regroup to surge towards victory!!! and completion. With a little luck, we can still take Knuckles out to a motor park this weekend for a little test driving, but for now we will catch up on sleep and do some homework.

Rest up!

4 days

Sunday funday?

Knuckles resembles a racecar! Eric and Joe got crunching on finger guards for the CVT. Sarah reamed out all of the fancy tabs we waterjetted yesterday while Joel coped the tubes for the A-arms. Mikey was smoking up the shop doing some incredibly exact boring on the lathe. Mike and John started welding tabs around noon and we now have places to attach our suspension arms, lap belts, and best of all, KNUCKLES HAS HIS FIRST WHEEL!!!!!!  That’s right. We have a steering wheel.

Knuckles' first wheel :')

Knuckles' first wheel :')

6 days

We’ve been chip chip chipping away at tasks on the car. There’s so much to be done! We’ve been divvying out ‘small tasks’ to everyone who is not directly attached to a design project, while the people who are designing finish up their parts or start manufacturing them. This way, everyone’s been designing and building at a freaky fast pace, and Knuckles looks more and more like a race car.  

John tried out the new Haas which was set up last week, and he machined out rear uprights! Mike has been water jetting our front uprights and tabs, so hopefully we’ll have some pictures of that to show you soon. Thanks for checking in!

John's/Knuckle's shiny new rear uprights

John's/Knuckle's shiny new rear uprights

9 days...

We had a stellar night. A bunch of kids came out to work and were able to finish our front axles which are getting heat treated tomorrow! We cut and mounted our skid plate as well as our engine mount. The car is beginning to look like a car, and after a bunch of new parts and stock come in tomorrow we’ll be that much closer to getting it all put together.

Mike Jastram trying out the (eventual location of the) driver's seat and holding onto a very maneuverable wheel.

Mike Jastram trying out the (eventual location of the) driver's seat and holding onto a very maneuverable wheel.

10 days until comp

Kids have been in the shop for 6-12 hours every day for the past week and we aren’t slowing down. We’ve got body panels on and John and Mike and Eric have been going to town on the tabs. Also John – after hours on the CNC and covering himself from neck to feet with greasy coolant – has successfully made us a gearbox!!! Boxes of raw materials and parts are arriving every day! We’ve yet to get our half shafts or EDMed parts back, but they should be here soon. It’s getting to be quite a pinch with ordering parts that will make it here on time, but we’re nearing the end. Other than master cylinders we should be done with all major components. If only we could get them all manufactured in time…

John  loves  his gearbox

John loves his gearbox

Mikey's suspension links

Mikey's suspension links

Steering arm by Mike

Steering arm by Mike

Charging into 2014

It’s 2014, and we’re getting ready for the Blizzard Baja race at Michigan Tech on February 22. The car is still mostly in boxes scattered around our engineering building, but John and Mike have been incredible as they train teams of eager, brilliant freshmen how to do complicated design, modeling, manufacturing and testing work.

Our designs for the gearbox, suspension, shafts and axles are complete and we’re ordering parts rapidly. We’ve got some freshmen helping weld the frame and others from the class of 2017 taking on the skid plate, steering system and firewall. Everyone is working hard and taking advantage of the lack of school work at start of the quarter. Still it will be a tough race against the clock to get a new car racing by the end of February. But if anyone can do it, we can.

Winter Baja 2013 Results

Held at Michigan Technological University

This year, the air never got warmer than 16 degrees. We arrived at the paddocks to start inspecting and setting up the car at 6AM, central time. Michigan Tech had prepared a beautiful track for us–about 1 mile of twisting trail through trees, over hills, jumps, baseball fields and ditches.  We had a fantastic time and were very proud to finish every event with no technical failures.

By the end of the second endurance race, five cars had dropped out of the competition, and nine teams completed fewer than five laps, while the winners managed to finish 18 laps in the incredible mush that was the course by the end of the day. During the second race, Stephen Benson, our main designer and builder, raced incredibly well and held the team in 6th place for over an hour.

Race 1: Endurance
2 hours
max laps: 32
completed 25 laps
Northwestern: 22nd place

Race 2: Endurance
1:45 hours
max laps: 18
completed 18 laps
Northwestern: 14th place

Northwestern: 17 out of 47 teams