Baja NOW - Baja @ Blizzard Baja - February 16 - 19, 2018

 

Last weekend, the Iowa Baja team traveled to Houghton, Michigan to compete at MTU Blizzard Baja, a competition on a track carved in snow on the campus of Michigan Technical University. Blizzard Baja is a unique race due to its location in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. With an average snowfall of over 18 feet, the freezing terrain is a grueling test for the vehicles and members of each Baja team. Since 1981, Blizzard Baja has grown to a race where more than 20 universities compete with over 50 vehicles. The 1 Mile track is designed by members of Michigan Tech's Baja team to specifically test vehicles to their limits.  

 The team loading the trailer before leaving for Blizzard Baja

The team loading the trailer before leaving for Blizzard Baja

Day 1 - Traveling to Michigan

On Friday, Iowa Baja began the 10 hour, 500 mile trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The long trip gave the members time to bond, and to get to know each other in a setting other than the Baja Laboratory. Along the way, the team continued a long-standing tradition, stopping at the Mullins Cheese Factory in Mosinee, Wisconsin where the team bought assorted meats and cheeses. When the team arrived in Michigan late that night, a meeting was held around the pool where the team discussed the strategy for the race, the current condition of the vehicles as well as to assign tasks each member would be responsible for on race day.

 The Mullins Cheese Factory

The Mullins Cheese Factory

Day 2 - Lake McLain State Park & Skiing at Mont Ripley

Early Saturday morning, a few members of the team traveled to McLain State Park to see Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes. 

 Lake Superior frozen for the winter

Lake Superior frozen for the winter

Lake Superior is truly amazing. It’s like looking towards the edge of the earth. From a kid who grew up in a large, bustling city, being able to be in a place that quiet was an amazing experience.
— Director of Public Relations Bram Williams

Later in the day, the team traveled to the Mont Ripley Ski Resort across from the Michigan Tech Campus. With a vertical drop of over 440 feet and 112 acres of skiable terrain, it is the premier skiing destination of Houghton. The team took advantage of the entire ski resort, more time to bond skiing, snowboarding and enjoying the four-lane tube park.

 Mont Ripley Ski Resort overlooking Houghton, Michigan

Mont Ripley Ski Resort overlooking Houghton, Michigan

 Public Relations Member Kaitlin Reither with her boyfriend Rob Pohren. (Chief Designer Mitch Evens in the background)

Public Relations Member Kaitlin Reither with her boyfriend Rob Pohren. (Chief Designer Mitch Evens in the background)

 Kyle Scharm after a snowboarding run

Kyle Scharm after a snowboarding run

 From Left: Danielle Lightfoot, Abby Denson, Paulina Kroczak, Kyle Scharm

From Left: Danielle Lightfoot, Abby Denson, Paulina Kroczak, Kyle Scharm

It was a good day of fun for all of our members. For most, this was their first time skiing or snowboarding.
— Secretary Eric Jones

Day 3 - Race Day & Traveling Home

The day began around 5:00 A.M.. After breakfast at the hotel, the team traveled from to the track to set up for the race. With the temperature failing to reach double digits, the team began the process of registering each vehicle and pushing them through their Technical Inspection where an official from MTU ensured that our vehicles were compliant with a battery of safety inspections like kill switch testing and frame strength testing. 

 The team working to repair Car 33

The team working to repair Car 33

 The 2018 Blizzard Baja Starting Grid

The 2018 Blizzard Baja Starting Grid

 Car 48 during a Driver's Change

Car 48 during a Driver's Change

 Members Paulina Kroczak and Kyle Scharm in Pit Lane next to Car 48 

Members Paulina Kroczak and Kyle Scharm in Pit Lane next to Car 48 

Each vehicle first competed in a dynamic event to determine its starting position for the endurance race. The qualifying routine of Blizzard Baja is quite unique. First, a vehicle must drive to the other side of a portion of the course. When it arrives at the other side, the driver must get out of the car while a new driver gets in and fully buckled in safety belts while a third member eats a pickled egg. When the new driver is securely in the vehicle and the pickled egg has been eaten, the car must race back to the start line, with the elapsed time determining its starting position. Car 33 qualified in the first position, thanks to an impressive time set by Vice President Rob Pohren and Chief Designer Mitch Evens, who used years of racing experience to expertly manage the complex 5-point safety harnesses. 

During the race, issues with the track arose, especially in an area notorious for cars sinking into the softly packed snow. Few cars were able to make it through this point, but the Iowa Baja cars passed through with ease. The track also taught newer members how the vehicles would behave in icy conditions. The Baja vehicles once again proved their durability to the last lap.

After the race, the team packed the vehicles into the trailer and began the 10-hour drive back to Iowa City. Exhausted, the team arrived safely back in Iowa City, with memories that will stay with the members for a lifetime. 

Memories like these are only possible thanks to our sponsors. To become a sponsor or to support Iowa Baja, check out the BajaSHOP to purchase one of our official Camoflague hats. If you would like to sponsor Iowa Baja, feel free to contact us directly.