What a weekend we had, while Sweepstakes had a smooth Saturday, the BAA had a small showing at this year’s Highland Games with CMU’s Pittsburgh Chapter. We had a blast showing off buggy to the Scots that showed up and are definitely planning on heading back for next year’s Games. This weekend we also finally got to see the full field enter the fray as the last couple teams completed their capabilities tests.
Sunday was possibly the most chaotic day as this was the first year that rolls have happened the same day as the Great Race. Any other year, the City would have not granted permits for this day, and now we know why. With a good portion of bus routes blocked off due to the Forbes and 5th closures, many were re-routed up Schenley drive, straight through the course. Being a little shorthanded, Sweepstakes got a little help from past chairs and other alums to help ease the mess. Eventually, the routine became easier, but then rolls ended. Teams were still able to get a few rolls each, but Sweepstakes is looking to never coincide with the Great Race again.
|CIA||Equinox, Icarus, Impulse, Orca, Ascension||Equinox, Icarus, Ascension|
|Fringe||Balious, X1, Beacon, Bissa||Balious, Beacon|
|SDC||Malice, Avarice||Havoc, Vice, Malice, Avarice|
|Spirit||Inviscid, Kingpin II, Zuke, Seraph||Inviscid, Kingpin II, Seraph|
- AEPi – AEPi was out rolling Kamikaze on Sunday with some younger brothers. Hopefully a younger group of fast pushers will help see a new trend in AEPi buggy. The brothers leading the group seem to have a passion that the team hasn’t seen in years and it sounds like there could be a build in their future. Having such a gap since the last build, it seems fair to guess that they are looking for any advice that’s out there.
- Apex – Apex had a two nice days of rolls. Still only rolling Phoenix, the ten person team looked comfortable on the course. Phoenix was not rolling incredibly fast but it is the beginning of the semester and it likely isn’t any indication that actually matters for the future but they should start having a fast push team out if they want to get the practice they need be serious this year. With only one driver so far this year (as opposed to their 5 or 6 from the last few), it’s surprising to see them still using bags, but at the same time refreshing to see them taking their time and work their way up to speed.
- CIA – CIA may have had the fastest buggy on the course this weekend. Equinox zoomed though the chute and most of hill 3 nearly making it to the porter entrance before she was picked up by the pusher. For a second weekend of rolls, the experience shown by her veteran driver and improved tech is astonishing. The other buggies, Icarus, Orca, and Ascension, were all rolling well but without those fancy-schmancy new wheels, they were left in the dust. With PiKA returning this weekend, the large group had to once again share the Tepper ledge and work together to avoid major logistical collisions.
- Fringe – Fringe was known for the longest time as the silent org through the chute. With the road as cracked and torn up as it was, every roll was unbelievably quiet. Now that the roads have finally been repaved, many teams have gotten nearly as hushed as Fringe used to be. The impressive thing is, Fringe somehow managed to get even more silent and now have gone into stealth mode as the glide through the turn and past the haybales. Balious unfortunately seems to have lost the fairings from last year’s raceday and has reverted to her original cardboard. We don’t normally see this reverse evolution in Fringe buggies and are puzzled as to what might be going on under the hood.
- PhiDelt – The youngsters had another good round of rolls but Perun was rolling slowly. Sarah preferred to have a third day with bags to help her get a little more confident with her line going through the chute. The bags seemed to only be one of the ways she was slowing down as she needed a few extra pushes from a CIA flagger to get her past the monument and finally to her Hill 3 who took what might be the longest hill 3 that will happen this year. Safety will always be a good call but expect a much faster roll next weekend.
- PiKA – Pike was able to cape this past week and made it out to rolls both days with Banshee. Just like her name suggests, she was screaming through the chute with those freshly paved roads. The mix of older mechanics and young, passionate, fast pushers seems to be great start to the season for PiKA. Keeping this momentum through the semester should rattle the cages of their competitors and position them for a great spring semester. What we haven’t seen this year is any other buggy of theirs and unless they are working on a new build, competing with just one buggy will be an incredible departure from what we’ve seen just a few years ago. While they haven’t regained their house on the Quad, PiKA has returned to a campus based house as of last year which should help them rebuild and recruit as this year progresses
- SDC – SDC rolled out four buggies, per usual, with ample pushers both days of rolls. As a surprise to many of us, SDC has indeed built a new buggy and debuted her this fall. Havoc is an incredibly dark green and seems to be the fastest of their fleet, Avarice, Malice, and Vice. Her speed and dark color made her very easy to confuse with Malice. We would have to see their numbers to know for sure, but those are probably locked behind a titanium vault within Stever…or is it? Purely by eye, SDC also had some incredibly impressive roll-outs, definitely some of the best of the weekend, but looks to be just behind Equinox. As drivers settle in and get their lines down, we expect to see SDC, Pike and CIA battle for the best rollouts.
- SigEp – SigEp rolled out Pandora both days and Kraken on Sunday. Saturday was a little light on the manpower, but they had a big showing on Sunday with most of their pushers being female. Kraken looks great and is rolling smooth and Pandora……sounded better than it looks but is the best buggy for training and Sophie will likely bea great driver. Keep up the practice! So far we’ve only see them bring out those two buggies, but there have been at least 3 different drivers. We’re not sure if they just had scheduling conflicts, but knowing that Pandora may not be a final buggy for some, we are watching for when they make the move to maybe Barracuda or Peregrine for more serious speed.
- SigNu – Hey! Look who came out. After a late start to the season, it was good to see ESP rolling. Krait was rolling great for being bagged and she had no issues with hitting her mark as she made her way around the turn. The start may not feel so late, but given how last year’s Spring was cut down to 3 days, any time missed could be the difference between a spin and smooth chute turn. We hope everything goes smoothly for them as they start the year playing catch-up.
- Spirit – Spirit has had decent rolls but not without some incidents. In the middle of rolls on Sunday, Zuke spun out in the chute and landed in the bales tail first. EMS and others were quick to be at her side, but the buggy following did not stop at the caution flag and people fled the chute until the second buggy had passed. Seeing so many stop flags, the new driver was reportedly confused and unsure of procedure having never confronted the situation before. Up by the transition, the third buggy slammed on the brakes sending her into an uncontrolled slide. Without the ability to correct her movement and continue the transition turn, she managed to find a pedestrian ramp where she slid up and onto the grass in front of Phipps. Both drivers showed no injuries and rolls continued without too much delay. Given two weekends in a row, the team is reevaluating it’s training procedures and redoubling their efforts.
- Robo – We haven’t had a chance to talk with these guys directly, but they don’t seem to be running as early as they did last year and are getting nowhere near as many rolls as they could be. Sunday’s rolls saw them only get a single roll in the morning before human rolls began. We’re not sure if they need more light than they used to, but it would be a shame to get so little practice after having made such amazing progress over the last year.
Aside from the bus fiasco, the Great Race came with other challenges as all the tow trucks were in use at the same time that morning. Sweepstakes was able to get one round of cars off the road, but still one car remained, and with no truck to able to reach it, they decided to block it off with as many bright markers as they could (cones, wire reels, ect.) and roll regardless. Given how teams used to be allowed to park on Hill 5, this was likely a low risk opportunity and came with no consequence.
Rule discussion at Chairman’s
After two weekends of rolls, and as many blown stop flags, Sweepstakes is putting their foot down and instituting a new policy for this year for drivers who fail to recognize stop flags. The exact specifics are up to the discretion of the safety chair, but as of now, any driver who fails to stop more than once when given the yellow and black flag will likely be banned from Raceday for unsafe driving and inability to follow safety procedure. Blowing through and ignoring stop flags is a serious hazard and is not something to be taken lightly, particularly this early in the year as drivers remember what it’s like to drive or learn for the first time. This year looks like it has one of the largest classes of new drivers so teams should make sure they are putting in the necessary effort to properly train their drivers.
Related to this Sweepstakes held a mandatory driver’s meeting preceding the regular chairman’s meetings to stress the importance of these procedures. They also brought up the idea of a required, in-situ stop flag test where drivers would be given a stop flag while driving at semi-normal speeds. This idea has been brought up before and has been discussed at length, but with no intention of implementation. This year’s sweepstakes is looking to change that and is putting it to the drivers and the teams to decide on whether this becomes a full rule and in what capacity it gets implemented. Many questions were raised during the meeting, the discussion went long, but ultimately teams were willing to talk, and few stayed silent (which anyone who’s attended these meetings can tell you, is incredibly out of the ordinary). Notable questions raised:
- Would this be required for all drivers?
- Could veteran drivers be grandfathered in (i.e. the rule would only be required for new drivers)?
- Should this instead be used as an additional penalty for drivers that fail to stop at a flag?
- Could the drivers be bagged?
- Should this rule come to pass, should it be that a driver’s first roll be a stop roll?
- Would the Safety chair be required to see it for it to count (like a pass test)?
- Were a driver to successfully stop, would she be allowed to continue and count her roll?
- How would you handle a rear-braking reverse trike whose tendency is to spin when braking in this situation?
- Should the driver know when it will happen?