Tech hosts Winter Baja

HOUGHTON – Twenty-two universities came to Michigan Technological University Saturday for the annual Winter Baja, marking its first year in a new location.

University teams worked on the more than 50 off-road vehicles for months leading up to the competition, which tests their vehicles’ endurance and other factors.

This is the first year on campus for the event, which was previously held in Lake Linden. A one-mile loop was set up behind the Student Development Complex.

Inside the SDC Wood Gym, team members came in from the cold to get food, browse displays from companies attending the event or watch team scores as they scrolled by on a large screen.

Ryan O’Connor of Ohio Northern University said his team started designing its car in August, then spent two-and-a-half months on fabrication. They’d finished the vehicle only days before the competition.

“We’ve had a couple of problems, but that’s why we test – to find out the problems,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s gone really well.”

The University of Iowa brought three vehicles, which teams have been developing on and off since October.

“Two of them are still in there,” team member Shane Peot said of the university’s cars, which were in 10th and 26th place part-way through. “One of them didn’t even make it past the parade.”

When they get back from Michigan, they’ll look at their vehicles’ performance and make adjustments in advance of the national Baja competition, which takes place this May at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash.

The University of Windsor (Ontario) is still working on its 2013 car, so it brought its older 2011 model – “and beat it all up,” said team member Jamie Lucier.

The clutch and transmission went out near the end of the first endurance race. But despite not using their 2013 model, there’s a lot the team can take away from their performance.

“We learned a lot about how our transmission reacts to the cold, so that should definitely help us,” he said.

Participants all liked the setup at Michigan Tech.

“It’s a nice facility, nice technology, and they put on a nice competition,” Lucier said. “It definitely beats some of the other places we’ve been.”

For more information on Winter Baja, visit Full results of the competition were not available at press time.