“Being able to have a team from St. Thomas compete in a Baja SAE competition was a dream over two years in the making,” said Danny Fagan, Tommie Motorsports founder and team driver. “Everyone on the team put in a lot of hard work and late nights to prepare for our first competition.”
Racing against powerhouse engineering teams from Virginia Tech, University of Michigan, Ohio State, Baylor, Michigan State, University of Dayton, University of Arizona, and Michigan Tech, among others, the team competed in three dynamic events and an endurance race.
The Baja SAE series is not your typical racing competition. Engineering students across the nation are tasked with designing and constructing an off-road vehicle that can navigate and survive severe and rough terrain. The teams must compete against one other to see which of their vehicle designs would be “manufactured” by a fictional firm.
Students work as a team to design, build, test, promote, and race their off-road vehicles. They must also engage with sponsors for financial support, all while managing their academic priorities.
"It’s quite remarkable that they built their competition car over four short months this summer while managing day jobs and other competing priorities – a real testament to the team's commitment and drive,” said Steve Cole, School of Engineering lab manager and club adviser.
“Baja was an experience you’ll never get anywhere else. It was so much more than anything you will get from your classes because this was real,” said Cam Vidlund, Tommie Motorsports team driver. “It’s an opportunity to put your skills to the test against engineers from around the country,”
For a first-year racing team, the technical inspection can be a formidable obstacle. Teams must ensure their vehicles meet all the safety and performance standards, constantly adjusting and tweaking their vehicles to meet these set standards. They passed the 4WD and brake tests with ease, and passed the technical inspection on their first try, something nearly unheard of for a first-year competing team. St. Thomas secured an impressive 31st-place finish out of all 78 competing teams.
“For a first-year team at Baja SAE, we far exceeded our expectations and were able to compete through the entire four-day event,” Cole said. “We were able to show up and make St. Thomas’ presence known on a national level.”
“From the beginning, it was the team that designed it, the team that made it, and it was the team that competed together.” Vidlund said. “Without every member of the club working together there would have been nothing to show.”
The Tommie Motorsports team is recruiting new members. “If you’re interested in powersports or anything automotive, then I highly recommend you join. No matter your major!” said team driver Jacob Wilcox.
To keep up with St. Thomas’ Baja Racing Team, check out their Instagram @tommie_motorsports.