University of Notre Dame participation on SAE Baja Competition (continuation)

  • Day 2: Design Evaluation/ Technical and Dynamic Brake Inspections

Day 2 started very early because the technical and dynamic brake inspections, and design evaluation took place. The technical inspection needs to be passed in order to advance in the competition, and with 105 registered teams it is important to be early in line. The Notre Dame Baja car #81, after passing all the inspections described above the car gets a sticker as you can see below.



The design event took place at 1:00pm. This is an engineering competition and the students needed to show their designs, analysis and validation of their vehicle. There, students Matt Hubbard, Matt Goedke, Ted Docherty and John Fisher presented the vehicle engineering design. The car has a unique drive train / rear suspension configuration that was explained to the design judges to convince them that it will have a superior performance than the other vehicles.

At the end of the day, the team went to the dynamic brake inspection where they needed to show that the vehicle could lock all four tires at the same time.  Student Matt Hubbard drove the car and was able to pass the test.  This completes the sticker and the car is ready for the dynamics events.


  • Day 3: Dynamic Events

Today the competition took place at Hogback Hill MX in Palmyra, NY.  This is a motocross facility where the dynamics events take place.  Each of the dynamics events taking place today has two hits.  The team staged the car first for the hill climb event; here the car has to climb a very steep hill from a standing start.  In the first try the car wasn’t able to clear the hill, but since the line for the second hit was long the team decided to go to Land Maneuverability.  Here things like the vehicle turning radius were tested in a course with many twists, turns, and slaloms.  Due to the complexity of the track, on the first run the car went off course but on the second run the car was able to complete the event.  The last event of the day was Suspension and Traction (see picture below): this event tests the suspension travel, vehicle ground clearance, and ability to go over very rough terrain.  For this event the team decided to complete only the obstacles that didn’t pose a tread to the vehicle, as many vehicles were breaking trying to complete some of the obstacles and the amount of points in the event was not worth the chance of breaking the car just before the endurance competition.

After all the day events finished, the drivers walked the endurance track.  A video of the track was taken for drivers further review of the track.

  • Day 4: Endurance

The only event today is the endurance event; it consists of a four-hour race.  The track conditions were muddier than expected by the team.  Since by the rules tires can’t be changed after technical inspection, the team had to run with tires not specified for mud making the car slower on those sections of the track.  The car was able to climb every hill and pass every obstacle of the endurance track.  This is important because if a car gets stuck or needs help to pass a section more than 3 times it gets disqualified.  About half an hour into the race, the engine died and the car was taken to the pit area.  It is important to mention and highlight that all cars use the same engine without any modifications.  After a first inspection the team found that the starter cable was broken, it was replaced and the engine still was not starting, and making now a grinding noise.  A technician from Briggs & Stratton was on site to help teams and helped the team debug the problem, a damage spark cable.  The team moved quickly to make all the repairs and the car was able to go back to the race about an hour later.  Then, 45 minutes to the completion of the four hours and completing 12 laps one of the belts of the drive train broke.  This took the car out of the race since the replacement of the belt couldn’t be finished before the end of the race.


After all the dynamics events of the competition the car is structurally without any failure.  The team will work to understand why the belt failed, fix the car and pass it on to the next team as a workbench to test and validate new designs.

University of Notre Dame first day on SAE Baja competition

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) as part of their Collegiate Design Series (CDS) has a Baja competition, where students design, build and race a small all terrain vehicle. Students from the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering took on the challenge and during this past year they designed, built and tested a small Baja vehicle. This vehicle runs with a stock 10 hp engine, and a CVT transmission. All components, except the engine, were designed or selected by the students. After the vehicle was assembled, they tested for about 6 hours, where they tuned the suspension and CVT, recorded data, and trained drivers.


Yesterday, the team drove from South Bend, IN to Rochester, NY. The competition is from June 6 to June 10 and is hosted by Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY. The summarized schedule of the competition:

  •  Thursday – Registration and engine governor setting
  •  Friday – Technical inspection and engineering design evaluation
  •  Saturday – Dynamic events
  •  Sunday – Endurance race (4 hour race)

If you want to know more about the team you can visit their webpage ( or Facebook page ( You can also show the team your support through Twitter @NDBaja, which will be giving updates during the competition.

Update: the team was able to register and get their engine approved.