Last weekend, Iowa Baja attended Midnight Mayhem X in Bedford, Kentucky. Midnight Mayhem invites students from across North America to travel to Kentucky, test new designs and ideas, show new members what Baja SAE is all about, and race wheel to wheel against over fifty other colleges and universities in various racing events.
Cars 48 & 88 at Technical Inspection
Like any other event for Baja SAE teams, Midnight Mayhem’s feature event is a wheel-to-wheel endurance race that challenges teams to navigate a course full of rocks, logs, jumps, and other obstacles to see whose car can make the most laps in four hours. What distinguished Midnight Mayhem from other races, however, is the time of the endurance race. The race is scheduled to weave through the backwoods of Kentucky in the dark, with the race scheduled to end around Midnight. Midnight Mayhem gives students the opportunity to experience the size and pace of a sanctioned SAE Collegiate Design Event, in a more laid-back environment.
Danielle Lightfoot (left) and Camilla Tabasso before Sundown Showdown
Camilla Tabasso in Car 88 during the Maneuverability Event
For the team, however, this was a special event. For the first time in modern history of Iowa Baja, the senior members remained in Iowa City. This gave the younger members the ability to be fully immersed in a baja event, preparing them for the fast paced action common at SAE Baja events.
Race 1 - Sundown Showdown (Friday Night)
The Sundown Showdown was new for Midnight Mayhem this year. The Showdown is similar to a track and field relay race. One car from each team completes 2 laps around the track as fast as possible. On completion of Lap 2 the driver enters the fuel pits, pulls in to the designated area for his/her team, turns off their car, gets out, and "passes the baton" by running to start the next car for their team. The first team to complete 10 laps (2 per car) wins the heat. Not only did the Sundown Showdown give more of our members time behind the wheel, they loved the unique format.
The team repairing Car 88 during the Sundown Showdown
Race 2 - Endurance (Saturday Night)
The Endurance Race at Midnight Mayhem is notorious for being a challenging test of the engineering designs and build quality of the Baja vehicles, as well as a test of the efficiency of the team in high stress situations. The track layout at Midnight Mayhem is especially unique, incorporating a high speed motocross track, a stepped dirt portion as well as a narrow, fast wooded area with a deep ravine on the edge of the track.
Sponsorship Lead Ben Atzen pressing a bearing into Car 88’s trailing arm with help from Carson Kruse (background)
When the sun finally went down across the Kentucky countryside, the green flag flew. Immediately, the vehicles were put to the test. Cars began to break down all around the track, with rollovers, wheels lost, broken frames and in one case, a car falling down the ravine. However, Car’s 88 & 48 from Iowa Baja continued to power through the night. Each new member was able to drive the car, learning not only how an off road vehicle handled on different surfaces, but also how to use vital safety equipment like wrist restraints and five-point racing harnesses.
Later in the night, problems began to arise. Car 88’s right rear wheel bearing encountered a rapid unscheduled disassembly, and was temporarily retired from the race. Soon after, Car 48 rolled over in the deep wooded area, breaking the output shaft, which sends power from the gearbox to the wheels. With no working cars left, the team began to pack up the trailer until one of the members found a spare wheel bearing in our supplies. Immediately, it was decided to replace 88’s wheel bearing and get back out on the track. In less than 8 minutes, the team was able to disassemble the rear right wheel assembly of 88, press out the broken bearing, replace it with a working one, reassemble the wheel assembly and get the vehicle back on the track. Car 88 continued to race until the last 5 minutes of the competition, when the car had to pull off the track for another mechanical failure.
The team scrambling to get Car 88 back onto the track
While we did not finish Midnight Mayhem as we had hoped, the mood from the members at the race was ecstatic. Members were not only able to come closer as a team, but the newer members gained valuable experience that will help them both in future years of Baja competition as well as practical experience for the future of their engineering careers.
Iowa Baja traveling to events like this would not be possible without our sponsors. In order for Iowa Baja to continue its goal of educating our members through hands-on experience, we are always looking for donations to our team. We accept material, machine time as well as monetary donations. For more information, check out the "Sponsors" page of our website.