I was part of SAE Baja for two years.
First-year the team was new. Not a single member had any clue about the events and how things were going to be during the event. So we did great in virtuals of last year’s event. We got through it. We tried to do everything we could. Designed our own hubs and knuckle. But for other departments, we relied upon the OEMs including a manual gearbox and Coilover shocks. For us clearing the technical round was no less than an achievement. We did well. That’s all I can say.
Baja SAE India 2016
For the second year, that is this year’s event, we knew exactly what were our strengths, weaknesses, where we could and should improve, what changes should be done, when to do what, what all things should be done and what shouldn’t be. But every single time when you explore new realms you are bound to face the difficulties.
We faced difficulties in fetching the sponsorship last year from that we learned a lesson. And approached hundreds of businessmen. Did try new techniques to raise the funds and to fetch the sponsorship. For example
- We printed calendars, for that we worked out for almost two months to get the advertisements.
- I took the classes of SolidWorks and raised money through it.
- Rented our driver’s kit to other teams.
- Gave away the projects.
- Fetched sponsors.
- Did crowdfunding.
Well, most of the things might not be new to most of the teams but we know that was unprecedented as long as our team was concerned. Also to achieve what we achieved in a city like Bhopal is something we can be proud of ourselves.
We did major changes in suspension, roll cage and drivetrain.
- Almost every single team goes with Fox suspension. We all know how expensive they are. And looking at our financial problems, we wanted something which would be cheaper but would give a great performance as compared to Fox. So we chose Radlfo shocks.
- In addition, we were designing the gearbox for the very first time. And for that, we faced tons and thousands of problems. We approached every single person we could. Right from other teams to people who have actually worked upon automobile gearbox and CVTs. But still, it took us December end to get the gearbox manufactured. Yes, you read it right. Our event was in Pritampur and just two weeks before the event rather a week before the transportation of our vehicle. So in a week, we assembled the whole powertrain. And owing to our correct CAD assembly everything turned out to be perfect or at least seemed until we started facing issues with driveshafts. So just two days before, somehow we fixed it. And got our vehicle running. And we didn’t get time to practice at all.
- As it was done just two days before the transportation, we didn’t get time to work on our brakes and you might be knowing how important it is to work on brakes. Even top teams struggle to clear brake test. We were risking everything.
- We had customized hubs from the last year’s. So we had problems with CNC manufacturing. And that was horrible. We were gaining a lot of camber because of that during cornering. Camber links turned out to be a savior.
Journey to event
The team’s journey to Pritampur was full of a roller-coaster ride. It was amazing. Even the return journey was memorable. But one incidence tops everything.
I lost my bag at a station. The bag which had my laptop, every single team member’s college id, the bond, insurance papers and driving licenses of both the drivers, SAE Id cards of all the members. We somehow got it.
Everything seemed quiet in our hands on the first day. We got our engine checked which took a longer time than what we had anticipated. And we got our first technical check with only one or two modifications to be done. But there is one more thing to remember the day for – CAE. We didn’t know we were one of the nine teams to get shortlisted for CAE, in fact, we were the first one. We weren’t prepared at all. Our room was some 32km away from college. We told our vice-captain to make a poster and come. Clueless about where to print the poster, he somehow found one place and got it till afternoon and CAE went well. We must have been in the top three or four if not the winners.
Cost round went okay and we stood 15th.
Sales went amazing but to our surprise, we got fewer marks. We wanted to protest as we were damn sure of our performance but couldn’t do it in time.
It started on a good note with we clearing our technical inspection. But just when we were thinking today is going to be our day, things started getting out of our hands. We could only lock 2 wheels. We were testing the whole day to get all those four fucking wheels locked but it seemed an impossible task. Our faculty advisor was doing everything he could with his experience, knowledge and we were doing bleeding of all the four wheels once again with the techniques our sir was telling us. But it was all to no avail.
Then just when they were announcing the brake test would be closed in half an hour, our accelerator cable snapped. Somehow with jugaad we managed to do it. And cleared our brake test.
Just when we were moving from brakes test to dynamics event, they closed every dynamic event. But we requested for acceleration and they agreed. We gave our attempt and were the last ones to do so. We were 11th in acceleration.
The design event was horrible. They pointed out very small things. Like the number of threads protruding after the nut, routing of hoses, etc.
Day 3 (D-day)
Just when we were excited about being in Endurance and not facing problems we had anticipated so far, our batteries drained. Both of them, including one in spare. We took a new from our friend’s team and even that drained. We were told to sort it out. Every single coordinator/judge was stopping by our vehicle when we were trying to sort it out while in the grid. Fortunately, our team members could get it in time from Indore city. Only we know what a horrible experience it was!!
The race started and after the first trial lap(formation lap) our driver lost the track and he came to the initial position where it started the race. We lost valuable time.
After a few laps, we took the sigh of relief only to find out our vehicle had not completed the lap in the last 20 minutes. It wasn’t even in pits. We told the Marshall and he contacted there and we got to know that we had some breakdown. We knew what it was. It was driveshafts. They took a lot of time to tow our vehicle to pit. We lost half-hour in that only. Once the vehicle was in pits we took the feedback from the driver and told him what to do and what not to do even though he already knew our strategy. We made a new driveshaft and welded it. It took 45 mins.
We were again in the race and this time we were confident as apart from that there was nothing else we had anticipated to fail. Only that half shaft was supposed to fail and it failed. But as we fixed even that we knew we could race till last.
But what endurance it is if you don’t face problems? We again had problems with CVT and it was because of only one bolt. Because of that the CVT belt and secondary pulley got displaced. The belt was getting crushed between casing and pulley. We fixed even that in 10–15 mins. If that sounds easy, imagine working with a belt and pulley which are hot as a frying pan.
After that, we ran like anything and stood 10th in Endurance.
From overall 104th in last year’s event to overall 17th.
From 96th in acceleration in the last years to 11th.
From 100th in cost, last year’s top 15th this year.
From backing out after 3 laps and incurring a penalty of 100 points in Endurance in last year to finishing 10th.
I guess it all was no less than an achievement to me.
Did we do our best? – I don’t know. Probably we did more than that. After facing all sorts of problems to overcoming all those and finishing the race I guess we can call it a win. A win which wasn’t awarded with any trophy or money but with a sense of happiness on all of our faces. A win where we could bring a smile and sense of satisfaction on our faculty advisor’s face. We faced all the problems like a team. Never blamed anyone for their mistakes but patted everyone for their great jobs. We lived it like a separate life which will probably never be lived once again but we made it count. From sleepless nights and countless days to finish it like a boss, I guess we won. And if that doesn’t sound like a win I don’t what would…