Each team gets scored on every performance criteria you can imagine. The first half of the four-day design event cover static (standing around talking) events while the weekend dynamic evaluations focus on backing up your talk. Today covered individual sled pull, maneuverability, braking, suspension and acceleration. Tomorrow? Combine all of those things with nearly 100 of your closest gear-head friends, each determined to squeeze into the same 40mph space that your car happens to occupy while mud is flung at you from every direction. Repeat for four hours, pack up and go home. If anyone asks, it’s an engineering study to prove which cars are best suited for the weekend break-it-if-you-can market.
The reality? Teeth-jarring fun in the name of education.
Individual static event are first-come, first served so teams often scurry to get in line early. That wasn’t the best sled-pull strategy, as most cars struggled to get moving in the early-morning slop. Good for flinging mud, not for forward progress, and the only weak spot in an otherwise outstanding day for S&T. Brendan Espy’s crew kept most of their dynamic scores in the top third of the field and are poised to earn the best performance in the Miners’ nine-year BAJA! history. They wowed the judges in design presentation and cost, both good for 26th place, the same number that adorns the car. Their real success was reversing a pattern of weak organization and teamwork the team struggled against in recent years.
Oh, yeah, the car……..Car and Driver flew through the air with the greatest of ease, even conquering the brutal pile of concrete slabs (suspension test) which stymied teams that got in line early. Better yet #26 was very reliable, devoid of any odd noises that might indicate trouble. Best of all the Miners’ transmission is working great! It’s an in-house design and manufacture that they’d been working on for several competition cycles. Rather than squeeze a salvaged ATV gearbox into the chassis or fall back on the popular but low-torque continually variable transmission (CVT), they wanted a lighter tranny that would respond to the driver’s whim and situation. In short, better engineering.