Bearcat Baja Racing Team Finishes Strong

By: Desiré Bennett

The Bearcat Baja Racing Team held strong as they competed against hundreds of universities from around the world in the annual Baja SAE intercollegiate design competition April 18-21, 2013 with an overall finish of 12th out of 100!

Some of the team pictured with the 2013 Bearcat Baja Racing car after a test run.

Some of the team pictured with the 2013 Bearcat Baja Racing car after a test run.

Run by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Baja SAE is an intercollegiate design competition where student teams from universities all over the world design and build small off-road cars. The goal of the competition is to design, build and race off-road vehicles that are able to endure a myriad of rough terrain challenges.

This year’s SAE Baja team is just back from the competition held at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tenn.  Professor and Advisor to the Baja team Allen Arthur is impressed with the results. “By far this is the best Baja has ever done,” he said.  “Congratulations to a great team!”

Although the number of team members is down by half from the previous year, this team has proven to be just as strong.  This year’s team was comprised of seven mechanical engineering technology seniors: Ricardo Hinojosa, Nick Brockman, Jason Taxis, Brooks Biteman, Bryan Vamos, Ben Steele, and James Rogers who served as the team captain and chief engineer.

The 2013 Bearcat Baja Racing car

The 2013 Bearcat Baja Racing car

Teams are evaluated on the quality of their design through a number of events including cost evaluation, design evaluation, brake performance, acceleration performance, suspension and traction which is a rough obstacle course designed to break the vehicle if there is any weakness in the design, a sled pull and a four hour endurance race.

Rogers explains the maneuverability and the four hour endurance race events, “The maneuverability event included a tight twisting and winding track designed to expose any failings in the steering and suspension of the vehicle,” he said.  “The [endurance race] is a culmination of the competition – an open wheel-to-wheel four hour grueling race to the finish across a 2.5 mile off-road course running through mud, tight woods, creek crossings and hill climbs – simply finishing the endurance event is an achievement.”

From driver training day

From driver training day

And this achievement did not come easy. While on the lead lap during the endurance race, the car rolled twice. “Thanks to a sturdy chassis design and robust suspension the team was able to continue the race and finished in 13th place, the best finish of any UC team to date,” Rogers said.

Even though the Bearcat Baja Racing Team faced many challenges throughout the design and build of the vehicle, including everything from raising and reaching the $25,000 budget for the build and both competitions, to staying focused on a very rigid timetable, they were able overcome these challenges through good leadership, excellent team work, and by keeping their eyes on the end goal—persevering and ultimately doing well in the competition.

According to Rogers, the SAE collegiate design series are among the highest profile intercollegiate engineering competitions. “Doing well at these events reflects credit on both the school and the students involved in them,” he said. “It shows that UC is able to produce design teams on par with the other top-tier universities all over the globe.”

Three competitions are held annually. This year they are Baja SAE Tennessee Tech (April 18-21), Baja SAE Washington (May 16-19), and Baja SAE Rochester (June 6-9). The team will be competing again at Baja SAE Rochester later this year.

The 2013 Bearcat Baja racing Team car in action

The 2013 Bearcat Baja racing Team car in action

The Baja SAE Competition originated at the University of South Carolina in 1976, under the supervision of Dr. J. F. Stevens. Since that time, the competition has grown to become a premier engineering design series for university teams.

The Bearcat's final results are posted below, beating the previous results in almost every category (all scores are out of 100)!


2012 Result

2013 Result

Overall Score



Endurance Event



Suspension+ Traction