Grove City College Racing is holding the Second Annual Baja Butler Bash on Saturday, Oct. 22, featuring student racing teams and off-road vehicles from colleges and universities across the region.
The competition at SwitchbackMX on Route 8 outside of Butler, Pa., features cars designed and built by students to compete in Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) BAJA events around the country.
Fifteen vehicles built by students from Johns Hopkins University, Ohio Northern University, University of Maryland – College Park, Miami University, University of Pittsburgh – Johnstown, and host Grove City College will compete in a series of trials to determine who has the best designed vehicle. There is no limit on the number of SAE-inspected cars a school can enter.
Gates open at 8 a.m. and admission to the daylong competition is $5. Food will be available to purchase on site, along with limited edition shirts, and more. Seating is limited so lawn chairs are recommended. This event is rain or shine but may be subject to track conditions.
Hosting the Baja Butler Bash is a major effort for the College’s SAE chapter, which consists of about 20 engineers, mechanics, and drivers. The team has two cars – Red October and Lady Liberty – running in the Baja Butler Bash, according to Olivia Whiteman, vice president of Marketing for the Grove City College Racing Baja SAE Club.
“We have an incredible community in the club,” Whiteman, a senior Entrepreneurship major from Ford City, Pa., said. “Everyone is hands on and hardworking while still being encouraging and building each other up. … We have more than just engineers on our team and the club is open to students from all majors. Everyone is given the opportunity to be in the shop, work on the cars, and drive in races, regardless of the skill level they come in with. The wide variety of disciplines allows us to bring many different ideas and experiences to the table.”
Getting cars in shape for the race and getting them back into action when something goes wrong is at the heart of Baja SAE, which is really an engineering and design program. Students design, build, maintain and race the cars, which are stripped-down, utilitarian vehicles built around a standard 10hp Briggs & Stratton engine and designed to withstand harsh elements and rough terrain, according to Dr. Vernon W. Ulrich, SAE adviser and professor of Mechanical Engineering.
Teams will begin the day with a rigorous safety inspection of their cars using SAE’s rules and regulations. That is followed by a hill climb to determine each car’s starting position in the endurance race, which is the main event of the Butler Baja Bash. The non-stop, four-hour race begins at 1:30 p.m. and is designed to test the car’s engineering and endurance.
The competition is not affiliated with SAE International, but it will adhere as closely as possible to the rules and regulations the organization has set for national competitions to allow teams to practice and prepare as if they are at a national competition.
“The most fun part of this event is that it is basically a low-pressure simulation of the National SAE races,” Whiteman said. “The teams are able to come together and have a good time while getting some valuable practice time in preparation for a national race.”
The Baja Butler Bash is organized by Grove City Racing and sponsored by Valvoline Express Care, Grove City, and Komatsu Mining Corp. Grove City College Racing Baja SAE Club is sponsored by Valvoline Express Care, Hahn Auto Restoration, and many SAE club alumni.