TTU Mini Baja takes top American honors in competition

In its second regional competition of the year, Tennessee Tech University's Mini Baja team achieved the best finish of all American teams in the 141- team contest and finished third overall.

TTU actually entered two vehicles in the event, with team members revamping last year's car and taking it to an 18 th place overall finish. Both TTU teams placed ahead of the host team, Rochester Institute of Technology, as well as teams including Oregon State, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Purdue, Ohio State, Johns Hopkins and West Virginia.

"We accomplished what we set out to do, which was finish both cars with no flips or rollovers and little or no lost time in the pits," said 2006 team captain David Ballard. "We definitely showed what we are made of."

The final overall standings showed a Brazilian team, Centro Universitario Da FEI, winning the overall competition, followed by Canada's Universite De Sherbrooke in second place and TTU in third.

With the third-place finish, this year's team finished in the Top 5 for the 27th time since the team began competing in 1978. In April the team took a second place overall finish at the regional competition hosted by the University of Central Florida.

Ballard says he is encouraged that this year's relatively young team will be able to carry on the winning tradition.

"We now have two cars that are state-of-the-art and ready to drive at a moment's notice," said Ballard.

Next year's captain-elect, Michael Coradini, says he is dedicated to preserving the team's reputation.

"The success of this team and the continuation of our respected reputation in SAE is a task that I will undertake with the greatest of seriousness and dedication," said Coradini. "All leaders are only as strong as the people they work with, and I truly feel like we have some of the best and the brightest."

Mini Baja is a collegiate off-road racing series sponsored by Society of Automotive Engineers. College teams from all over the world fabricate vehicles in the hope that their designs will prove to be tough enough to endure the harsh conditions of the race environment yet fast enough to beat competitors.

Students work on the vehicles on campus in the DENSO Vehicle Engineering Center, thanks to a donation from DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee and the DENSO North America Foundation. General Mills/Pillsbury of Murfreesboro and MTS are also premier sponsors.

Other sponsors included Rhino Linings of Cookeville, Jet-Fab, FabSouth, Dock Buoy (John McCluen Co.), and Mid South Section of SAE.

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