The 12th edition of Baja, conducted in India by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) came to an end on the 27th of January. This intercollege competition witnessed the participation of more than 4000 engineering students, who put in their heart and soul in designing, fabricating and assembling a car worthy of this competition. Ever since the first edition of Baja in 2007, SAE has pushed the envelope to bring out the best out of these engineers, passionate to work in the automotive industry. This year, as a surprise, SAE introduced a new obstacle, a rock crawl, which put these machines to the test and most of them went through without any hassles.
The competition is divided into two categories, namely – eBaja and mBaja. As the name suggests, eBaja is where all-electric cars compete against each other. This opens up this competition to students from the Electronics fields of engineering. mBaja on the other hand, witnesses vehicles, with a common 305 cc engine, which can not be modified in any form, compete in various aspects. This year, Baja saw the registration of a total of 363 teams out of which 85 (out of 120) teams of mBaja and 22 (out of 50) teams of eBaja made it to the final round, an endurance race to test the capabilities of these single seater machines built by our future generation.
After passing through the scrutiny of the judges, the cars were made to go through a static test. All parameters, including the transmission, suspension, wheels and tyres were checked. This step not only ensures that all cars are worthy of the race, but also makes sure that all the drivers would be safe during the race. Strict safety norms were implemented throughout the race, each car was required to hold a fire extinguisher and the drivers had to be able to come out within 5 seconds of time, which again was checked by the officials.
The Final day was the race day, which was going to take place on the famous Natrip testing facility in Indore. The track had been designed by professionals and has always been made more challenging than its previous iteration. This year, the track was 4.8 km long with a number of twists and turns and obstacles. There even was a mud pit, giving the riders a cooling splash of muddy water, every lap.
The organisers made sure that the race involved no casualties, and there have been zero incidents ever since the organisation started the event. Despite that, the organisers make sure that medical facilities and even a standby ambulance are present on the track. We even saw a firetruck ready to douse out any flames, if such a situation were to rise. Also, present on the track were the race marshalls and volunteers, who helped the riders if they were stuck on some obstacle and also made sure the race was not interrupted by any stuck vehicle. In the case of when a vehicle is not capable of moving further, the cars were towed back to the pits behind tractors and repaired or retired.
We were invited by Mahindra for the final race day of the mBaja, which was a 4-hour endurance race. The race was flagged off at 9:30 in the morning, with excitement very palpable at the starting line and the pits. For this race, the teams were free to repair their cars, and were provided with a welding area as well. The place was filled with tension, excitement and despite having stayed up for countless nights before the event, all students were on their toes.
The teams were allowed to make changes to the tyres and repair their cars in the pit. Bharat Petroleum has been providing the event with Speed petrol ever since the event started, back in 2007. Ensuring the safety of the people involved, the fueling station had quite some restrictions. Apart from the huge number of fire extinguishers and sand buckets, the teams were made to switch their engines off and push the vehicles in and out of the fuel tent. Again, Marshalls and volunteers made sure everybody followed the safety protocol.
Winning the main event for the mBaja this year was Government College of Engineering from Pune. They were followed by DY Patil College of Engineering, Akurdi from Pune and SilverOak College of Engineering who came second and third respectively. For the eBaja competition, Institute of Technology, Nirma University from Ahmedabad came in the first position. Coming in the runner up position in eBaja was BVB College of Engineering from Hubli.
There also is another side to Baja, a side which is not known by a lot. The participants of the competition were given an option of appearing for an aptitude test, which acts as a screening process. Mahindra and a few more leading automotive companies have been recruiting engineers directly from this platform. The final interviews will be conducted on the 28th and 29th of January, 2019. Selected candidates would be offered offer letters directly from some renowned automotive companies.
It was an experience that cannot be described in words, an experience you have to experience to know what it feels like. It was above what was expected to be and perhaps, platforms like this could be an ideal recruitment platform for many automotive OEMs to carry new, prepared engineers who have the passion for the industry. Do check out our images gallery of all the obstacles on the track.