The Aztec Baja Racing Team showcases their student-built off-road buggy at the season finale – The Daily Aztec

A detailed look at SDSU’s Aztec Baja SAE competing in Mexican Motorsport

Xiomara Villarreal Gerardo

Manuel Aldana works on the Aztec Baja Racing Team car in preparation for this year’s race on September 12, 2022.

Each year, the team at San Diego State’s Aztec Baja Society of Automotive Engineers initiates their plan to design, manufacture and race an off-road buggy. At the end of the 2022 season, the Aztecs make their way to Baja SAE Arizona where they will face off against national and international varsity teams from September 29th to October 2nd

The Baja SAE competitions serve as a model for real-world engineering projects, where students are challenged to design an all-terrain vehicle that can withstand the rigors of rough terrain.

Aztec Baja SAE President and Engineering Senior Manuel Aldana said the team is looking to build on the successes of their past races and use them to position their car at the front in Arizona. Aldana also emphasized how important it is for family members to come and support the team as Arizona is one of their local races.

“We have a strong momentum and we’re hoping to give it our all to get a podium or a top spot in Arizona,” said Aldana. “And Arizona really means a lot to us because some of our parents or siblings will be there.”

In 2020 and 2021, the team began designing and manufacturing its first-ever all-wheel drive (4WD) Aztec Baja car. They were able to finalize the design in 2022 and implement it in their racing car during the season. With their new 4WD, the Aztec Baja team placed 15th in the Baja SAE Tennessee Tech competition. They took first place in suspension and traction and placed 8th overall in the Rochester Institute of Technology competition in New York.

Abel Estrada, a sophomore mechanical engineer and head of suspension at Aztec Baja SAE, shared the story behind their recent races and expressed his feelings for good finishes in their first two competitions of the season.

Team Aztec Baja Racing poses with their 4×4 after a race. (Aztec Baja Racing)

“It was a really great feeling, especially after putting so much work into the car,” said Estrada. “We couldn’t actually do a lot of testing because we had very little time. When we got it out in Tennessee it was kind of like the first time we drove the car, but then in New York we just redefined everything and did a lot better overall.”

Mexican off-road motorsport originated in 1967 when Ed Pearlman founded the National Off-road Racing Association and the first Baja 1000 was held in Baja California, Mexico, from Tijuana to La Paz. From that moment on, the annual Baja 1000 has grown into one of the most prestigious and wildest off-road races in the world.

Aztec Baja SAE at SDSU began in 2010 as a senior design project funded entirely by a San Diego-based company called McMillin Racing, which is one of the premier trophy truck racing teams in Baja California, Mexico and the United States. In 2014, the first Aztec Baja car was built on the SDSU campus, and the following year the team became an officially recognized club at the university. But it wasn’t until 2017 that the Aztecs competed in all three SAE competitions for the first time.

One of the reasons Estrada joined the Aztec Baja SAE team was the culture behind Baja Racing and the experiences he had with his family when he was younger.

“I think that’s probably why it caught my attention, because culturally I went into the desert and just went off-road with my cousins ​​and family members,” Estrada said.

Mexico has had a major impact on student racing teams in the United States and other nations through Baja Racing. Throughout the season, teams from across the country, Brazil, Canada and Mexico compete in SAE competitions.

“Everyone just gets together for an off-road race where we watch each other’s cars compete and it’s all a lot of fun,” said Aldana.

Aside from enjoying Aztec Baja, the organization also offers students the opportunity to gain hands-on engineering skills, knowledge, and experience that can greatly expand their career opportunities. Aldana credits being a part of Aztec Baja SAE for getting his dream internship this summer.

“This past summer of 2022, I got the chance to do an internship at Solar Turbines here in San Diego, which was really my dream internship,” said Aldana.

“Without Aztec Baja, I probably wouldn’t have gotten this internship because I was able to bring some of the things I’ve learned in this team from the past and apply them to the task that was assigned to my internship.”

Encouragingly, Estrada said students should join the Aztec Baja SAE team as it is a good challenge for those who want to learn.

Aldana explains that Aztec Baja SAE can be followed on social media and is open to all majors, backgrounds and skill levels. The team is happy to help any student interested in expanding their skills outside of the classroom while having fun.

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