SAE Supermileage: Race Day

Fri 6/7/2013

Pre-Race in the Pit

Pre-Race in the Pit

Race day. Yesterday’s congeniality has been replaced by the steely look of fierce competitors (Cue ominous music) as the teams roll their vehicles into the pits for final inspection and fueling. The sound of revving engines all but drowns out the announcers and the cheering spectators. The tension is as thick as the aroma of hot asphalt and Iso-Octane racing fuel…

Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. There is a marked increase in the intensity of the atmosphere, however, and the resemblance to race day at the Brickyard is striking: the pit areas are a hub of activity; sponsor stickers adorn the vehicles, the teams feverishly go through final checklists, drivers confer with crew chiefs, and the track is lined with spectators eagerly awaiting the action.

While the competitiveness of the event has become evident, the attitude of the teams remains convivial and supportive. They call out encouragement to each other, they loan out wrenches and bits of hardware for last minute adjustments, and share tips on track conditions and efficient approaches to the curves and hills of the track.

The UNH team was one of the first in the pits, and passed their final inspection, with high marks given for the safety and of the vehicle. Some of the criteria for this inspection are vehicle stability, fire suppression, driver restraint, stop time, and perhaps most critical of all, the ability of the crew to extract the driver from the tight confines of the vehicle quickly in the event of an accident. This is critical because the highly tuned engines in these vehicles do, in fact, burn extremely flammable Iso-Octane racing gasoline. 

Fueling Operations

Fueling Operations

The first run was conducted with astounding consistency by driver Brittany Albera, a Sophomore Mechanical Engineering major at the Tagliatela College of Engineering. Each lap was within seconds of the previous lap, and when asked to slow the lap time by 30 seconds she added almost exactly 30 seconds to the lap. This is doubly impressive when you consider that she has no timer in the vehicle and is only in communication with her crew chief for about 1/3 of each lap.

Across the Finish Line!

Across the Finish Line!

Our mileage was not what we expected it to be, and when Mechanical Engineering student Mike Sestito examined the engine a knock was discerned. Initially this was diagnosed as a pre-ignition problem, but after conferring with the driver and double checking the ignition timing more serious issues were suspected. The engine oil was examined and found to contain a significant amount of metal filings, indicating far more serious engine problems. Further examination indicated blown crankshaft bearings. This engine was done. It was now approaching 2 pm. The vehicle was rolled out of the pit area amid best wishes for next year from the event organizers and fellow competitors.

Post Race Inspection

Post Race Inspection

The engine may have been finished, but this team wasn’t.

I hate cliff hangers. Let us know if you’d like to see how  this turns out, because the suspense is killing me!

 

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