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BAJA 2018: The future of India's auto engineering

Last updated on: February 12, 2018 13:28 IST

Young, raw energy was on display as 161 teams from India's engineering colleges tested their automobile engine's mettle on a chilly Sunday across the rough, stony and muddy tracks at the Mahindra BAJA SAE India 2018

Rediff.com's Ashish Narsale was in Pithampur, Madhya Pradesh, to catch all the action.

BAJA was started in the United States by SAE International, SAE India -- with support from Mahindra & Mahindra -- organises the India edition of the event.
Photograph: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com.

 

If you are an auto engineering student, who has just wangled out a working auto engine with your chums, and is raring to test its power and might, then you have to be at this Pithampur dust bowl, near Indore, Madhya Pradesh, revving up your creation against those of other amateur auto engineers.

As is a tradition now with auto amateurs from Indian engineering colleges since 2007, the Mahindra BAJA SAE India 2018, now in its 11th edition, saw participation from 161 teams, exhibiting and testing their petrol-driven all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), across the Pithampur dust bowl this January 28.

Mahindra BAJA SAE India calls it 'out-of-classroom-education system', and offers the only launch pad in India for budding auto engineering students to showcase their skills, ideas and innovations.

The Mahindra BAJA SAE India 2018 will be held in two phases.

While the one in Pithampur concluded January 28, the next one in Ropar, Punjab, is scheduled for March 8-11, where teams from 60 more colleges will be showcasing their skills and ATVs.

It was just not the spirit in the engine that created the buzz. The spirit and the camaraderie among the teams too made for a wonderful spectacle.

 

Pithampur's dust bowl, some 30-odd km from Indore Airport, witnessed a high octane event on a chilly Sunday morning this January 28 as metal-framed buggies (ATVs), raced past each other, over man-made hurdles, through slushy muck -- all part of the rough race track created by the organisers to test the strength and sophistication of the engines made by the participants.

Each team had only one motto: VICTORY. It was the ultimate test of their hours of efforts, skills and innovations.

As team mates pushed the buggies to the line up at the starting markers, you could see team mates readying their drivers, bucking them up and their supporters, lined neatly away from the tracks, egging them on.

You could see the rush of adrenalin on the faces of the team's young engineers as they strove hard to prove their machine's might and class.

As eager college enthusiasts raced their ATVs on gravely, dusty, stony tracks, the dry, arid land was filled with the sound of buzzing engines and cheering supporters. One could distinctly smell the rubber and burnt fuel, creating a perfect racing arena atmosphere.

In the final race, drivers had to ride their buggies for four hours for a maximum number of laps to prove their vehicle's endurance.

 

The final event was flagged off by singer and Minister of State for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Babul Supriyo, and Dr Pawan Goenka, managing director, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. Before the flag off of the final race, Supriyo also took an inspectional ride on an ATV.

In the final race, each buggy had to ride for four hours for a maximum number of laps to prove their buggy's endurance.

The track's a real endurance tester for the driver, who has to ride in the steel cage with cramped legs for four long hours crossing mud-filled puddles, humps and a rocky road, taking the high bumps and mud on the chin.

Following the rule that each participating buggy should not have power of more than 10 BHP (brake horsepower, a unit to measure an engine's power; generally higher BHP means better pick up for the vehicle) the competing teams have to make the buggy lighter and smaller thereby sacrificing the essentials for the driver's comfort.

Despite these odds and circumstances, the drivers' efforts were commendable.

The daredevil marshals.
Watch them in action here.

 

To keep the drivers going their supporters and safety marshals, at times, had to drag them out of the pit by using heavier and powerful all-terrain bikes (ATBs) and once out of the mud pit, splash water on their faces to get the mud off their faces.

It was an experience watching the marshals, slipping and skidding through the mud -- risking their own lives -- to drag the buggies out of the muck.

The daredevil marshals -- who were not professionals, but volunteers from various participating colleges -- didn't seem to think twice about pushing the buggy as the buggy driver pressed hard on the throttle to get out of the muck.

One ATV toppled and another got stuck in a mud pit, but nothing could stop them that day.

 

As the race ended all knew there would be losers and winners.

But the organizers, in their effort to boost everybody's morale, made sure that most participants had not just fond memories but also prize money and trophies when they go back home.

With the total prize money just for participants at Pithampur standing at ₹22,40,000, and with scores of category winners, the 161 participating colleges were a happy and satisfied lot, not just for the money they earned for their efforts, but also the applause and experience that came with it.

The high-octane action.
Video: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com.
Ashish Narsale / Rediff.com in Madhya Pradesh