Before a vehicle can compete in the main events, it has to pass a safety check and a brake test. The team can then enter the so-called “dynamic events”. A timed obstacle course, called a gymkhana, is designed to test the vehicle’s manoeuvrability, featuring tight turns and high-skill, low speed driving. Acceleration is tested in drag races to determine starting positions for the endurance race, and the sledge pull features a trailer that digs more into the ground the further you pull it, testing the vehicle’s raw power.
The static judge contest focuses on aesthetics and design. Vehicles are rated on the intelligence and originality of their designs. The UP team has repeatedly won the static judge portion of the competition in South Africa, with the two vehicles they enter coming first and second, time and time again. Globally, UP is one of the up-and-coming teams, showing consistent improvement over the last decade. They first competed internationally in 2007. In 2013, UP came 19th out of over 100 teams.
In terms of sponsors, both the UP team and the mini Baja competition at large have had some rough patches recently. Sasol used to sponsor the entire competition, but pulled out last year. Luckily, Armscor (Armaments Corporation of South Africa), which used to rent out the space to hold the competition at Sasol’s expense, allowed the use of its facilities free of charge last year. The UP team’s primary sponsor is Deutsche Post DHL. Other sponsors include HAAS Tooling, Certus Engineering, MECAD, Bosch and – for the first time ever – the UP Department of Mechanical Engineering.
With the annual South African competition coming up in October, the Baja team is already making preparations. They have confidence that they will add another glass trophy to their extensive collection.