Matt & I pull up to the Hallett Circuit, it’s about 1 p.m. and while sitting at the gate, waiting to be let in... the OKstate Racing CNG car goes zooming bye. It’s been since July of 2011 since I’ve seen the CNG car in action, for Matt, it’s a first.
We enter the gate, cross the raceway and head toward the pits where we run into several members of the team, many who were freshman or had just joined when Matt and I were graduating school. We begin to catch up with Tarek, who serves president of OKstate Racing. He’s gearing up for his presentation about the organization that began at 2. We hear the CNG car coming around the ninth turn of the 10 turn course.
In the pit in the 2011 car the team took to Michigan. Tarek tells us about the 2011 car, which had a dramatic design change from the previous 2010 car, the last year Matt and I were on the team. The body is now wider, providing access to more drivers as well as a more overall level of comfort. Matt and I swap turns just sitting in the drivers seat. We both notice a much better design instantly.
We move down toward the pit, where the team has two vehicles set up for refueling. As we walk toward the pit, the team gears up for a driver switch. As the car pulls in. Several members jump to action just like a NASCAR pit crew. Time is of the essence, the team is trying to beat last years record or 590 miles completed with a goal of 1,000 miles in a 24 hour period.
In 2011, the first year the team attempted CNG, the vehicle ran off a single half gallon tank, this year, they’ve added another half gas-gallon-equivalent or a total of 1 GGE. This has resulted in a pit stop every 10 laps or so versus needing to stop every 5 laps or less during last year.
At 2 p.m. friends, family, supporters and Hallett workers gathered in the cafe to hear a presentation about OKstate Racing and their CNG efforts. The team had invited 16 other universities to compete in the 24 hour race, with faculty advisor Jim Beckstrom offering to convert an old vehicle for any team. No one accepted the challenge. OKstate Racing President, Tarek said “the team’s trying to push FSAE to allow the fuel to be used in competition.”
The team completed more than 120 laps by the time we left. Chris Foote, a team veteran, had set they had some set backs in the morning and a they car had to be brought in for about 20 minutes right before we left for some maintenance. But as we were leaving, the team was back on the track, racing to complete their goal.
The team completed 428 laps, 100 more than last year, and 180 miles further. The team claims its improved tuning put more power to the suspension. Although the suspension caused several failures during the race, the team still managed to break last years records. The goal of 1,000 miles is still something to be reached. Perhaps the team would benefit from a fuel system with increased pressure... say 5,800 psi. Maybe next year.
Check out some of the photo’s of the CNG event on their Facebook page.