Motorsport Team faces disadvantage after first day at competition

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Mechanical engineering sophomores Isaac Medina and Austin Hahn carry in the shell of the Odyssey to be worked on at the paddocks, a working area, for the Shell Eco-Marathon Americas Competition April 3 at Sonoma Raceway, in Sonoma, Calif. Medina said after they finish modifications, they will go through inspections, and if they are cleared they can practice on the track. Deandra Gonzalez

After an hour-long delay the next day, the team makes vehicle improvements.

By Rogelio Escamilla

SONOMA, Calif. — The Motorsport team unloaded and began working on their hydrogen fuel-cell prototype vehicle, Odyssey, at 7:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time April 3 after a 4 a.m. PST start to their morning for the Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition at Sonoma Raceway .

76 of the 88 teams have registered and are currently at the raceway. Team registration will remain open the rest of today and halfway into April 4.

Mechanical engineering sophomores Isaac Medina and Austin Hahn work on attaching the wheels for the hyrdogen fuel cell Odyssey at the Shell Eco-marathon Americas Competition April 3 at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Hahn also worked on adusting the brake pedals so the driver does not have to push the brakes hard. Deandra Gonzalez

Some teams had the opportunity to make adjustments or major modifications to their vehicles until 10:30 p.m. PST April 2.

The Motorsport team did not receive this additional time because they were not permitted to unload their vehicle at the paddocks when they arrived at 5:40 p.m. PST April 2.

“I just talked to the security guard at the gate, he stopped entry at 5 p.m.,” said Josh Chavana, mechanical engineering sophomore and team manager. “He was a raceway staff member, not someone from Shell.”

Any team that did not unload their vehicle before that time could not unload or work on their vehicle, including the Motorsport team who remained in registration and a mandatory safety course until 7 p.m. PST.

The team was under the impression the cutoff time for the paddocks was 7 p.m. PST, however that cutoff time only applied to the raceway safety course, which consisted of a video and a presentation by Andy Fink, health safety environmental specialist for Shell.

The short class informed participants on the raceway’s safety rules, including the requirement of seatbelts while driving and other safety precautions.

Mechanical engineering sophomore Isaac Medina asked Fink if team members could tuck in their ID badge while they worked on the vehicle if it gets in the way.

“Absolutely, safety should be your first concern,” Fink said. “(Badges) should be on display at all times, but if you feel it is a hazard then you should definitely tuck it in.”

Other teams who completed registration and the raceway safety course before 5 p.m. PST gained, at least, 5.5 hours of potential time to improve their vehicle over the Motorsport team because the paddocks closed at 10:30 p.m. PST.

The paddocks is a tent-like structure that houses all of the teams and provides them a space to work on their vehicles before the competition.

Although the team was not penalized for missing the first day’s cut off, they lost valuable time to work on their vehicle.

Mechanical engineering sophomores Austin Hahn and Josh Chavana and electrical engineering sophomore Allie Moore unload the chassis of the Odyssey to be worked on at the paddocks, a working area, for the Shell Eco-Marathon Americas Competition April 3 at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. The team will work on modifications, which include mounting the door threshold, mounting the shell and programing the motor controller, before inspections. Deandra Gonzalez

They needed to test the vehicle’s motor controller and mount the door threshold and outer shell, all of which had to wait until the next day.

A Shell official told the team they would be allowed to unload their vehicle at 6 a.m. PST today.

Upon arrival to the raceway before 6 a.m. PST, the team was told they could not unload Odyssey until 7:30 a.m. PST.

The team is currently working on their vehicle, and plans to finish it before today’s inspections end at 6 p.m. PST according to electrical engineering sophomore Allie Moore.

“Ideally, we want to finish inspections,” Moore said. “If we do that, we can focus on practice tomorrow and work on some motor controller issues. We’re having difficulty getting the fuel cell and motor controller to be compatible. It should mostly be a software issue.”

Inspections continue until 7 p.m. PST April 4.

Of the 10 team members, four arrived April 2, two more will arrive today and come straight to the raceway to help modify the vehicle, four and an adviser will arrive late in the evening, and two advisers will arrive April 4.

The Ranger will continue coverage of the competition throughout the week.


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