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The King is dead! Long live the King! This week, the 100 Years of Buggy History series turns its attention to 2007-2009, as the greatest dynasty in Buggy history ends, as the greatest dynasty in Buggy history begins. We’ve also got plenty of fun in some exhibition heats as the roads continue to deteriorate. And one Fringe alum decides to post some photos to the internet, changing the course of Buggy forever (and giving you this series!).
Raceday: Prelims on Friday, April 20 at 8:00am; Finals on Saturday, April 21 at 8:00am
Sweepstakes Committee: Mike Rem (Chair); John Novak (Ass. Chair); Jon Kaufman (Safety); Mira Lynn (Design)
Men’s Results: (1) PiKA A – Zeus (2:07.39); (2) Fringe A – Banyan (2:10.60); (3) PiKA B – Wyvern (2:12.40); (4) SDC B – Addiction (2:12.50); (5) Fringe B – Bantam (2:14.19); (6) SigNu A – King of Spades (2:15.75)
Women’s Results: (1) SDC A – Psychosis (2:31.00); (2) PiKA A – Wyvern (2:35.44);(3) Fringe A – Bantam (2:42.40); (4) Spirit A – Shaka Zulu (2:42.54); (5) SigNu A – Skua (2:43.25); (6) KDR A – Perun (3:03.15)
Design Comp: (1) Fringe – Banyan; (2) Fringe – Bantam; (3) KDR – Perun
Other Awards: (People’s Choice) Fringe – Banyan; (Chairman’s Choice) AEPi; (Spirit of Buggy) W3VC/Radio Club; (T-Shirt) SDC
Weather: Sunny, 50-64 Degrees on Friday; Sunny, 53-67 on Saturday
Buggy Book: 2007 Buggy Book Link
Raceday Video Playlist: 2007 Race Playlist
Prediction Score: 18/55 Men’s, 27/45 Women’s (Compubookie)
2007 brought with it a number of faceplants, some brand new buggies, and some shiny green wheels that signaled the start of the a wave of new wheel technology.
- AEND For Fringe. By 2007, most teams had transitioned to Xootr wheels. But much like the Goodyears and Derby tires before them, what works at one point in time isn’t always guaranteed to work in the future. Xootr changed their wheel formula from that 2001 batch, and the new formula was not nearly as good as the older wheels. The change prompted Fringe to once again try and seek out something better. And one day, that change became apparent to spectators, as Fringe showed up on the course with bright green (some might even call them “glow-in-the-dark”) wheels. The wheels may have been mocked at first, but it didn’t take long until others were copying Fringe. The wheels, purchased from AEND Industries (and later provided by Zero Error Racing through an exclusive(ish) arrangement with AEND), proved to be quite a significant improvement over the stock Xootrs (though at a much higher price point). Soon, all different colors of wheels would be found on different buggies, denoting different polyurethane compounds, and although the wheels didn’t win in 2007, it wasn’t long before similar wheels found themselves atop the podium.
- AEPi Builds. AEPi had plans to build a new buggy as early as 2005. They had set aside a separate build budget and drawn up plans. They even fished a pushbar (believed to be from Beta) out of a dumpster to use, though it was probably in the dumpster for a reason. But it took 2 years for AEPi to find a source of carbon fiber cheap enough to fit within their budget (sources were supposedly limited, thanks to the use of carbon fiber in Boeing’s Dreamliner). They built a foam mold and waited. When they were finally able to obtain the carbon fiber needed, they bought a vacuum pump and decided to test it to see how to actually make something out of carbon fiber. The first creation was a crown (think the Burger King crown). From there, they moved on to a buggy. The Buggy Chair’s plan was to begin with a prototype buggy, so that the organization could make mistakes and learn how to properly build a buggy. Unfortunately, that Buggy Chair (AKA me) wasn’t an engineer and didn’t understand the complexities of building a buggy with carbon fiber when you’ve never done it before. The shell was completed, and even though the Buggy Chair thought that you could just slide the foam mold out of the shell (that’s what the release film is for, right?), it turns out that wasn’t the case. For the next month, AEPi’s mechanics and drivers took hammers, chisels, and Dewalt drills equipped with spade bits and spent a portion of every day removing bits of foam from the inside of the shell (it didn’t help that the back hatch was cut too early in the process, making it particularly difficult to get some of the foam out of the back of the buggy, requiring the skills of the smallest driver to get it out). By the time the process was done, the mold was gone and time was running out. So instead of a prototype, the build became AEPi’s new buggy, Zephyrus. They added aluminum support inside the shell in order to add stability to the buggy, adding the steering and braking systems (they opted for an Ackermann Steering system, which is…not a great decision for a first build), and attached the pushbar. On March 24, 2007, Zephyrus made its debut on the course. [Ed. Note: As I mentioned, I’m not an engineer; it’s possible that some of these facts about building a buggy in 2007 may not be true for smarter, more established organizations. But I can assure you all of this was true for AEPi in 2007.]
- Pioneers Gets Original. 2007 would become the last year that Pioneers would ever build a new buggy. The buggy, Keres, was, to the untrained eye, a work of art. The wheels were large and had been handcrafted, which may not have been the most practical idea and created a particularly high clearance off of the road, but it made the buggy an attention getter. Unfortunately, it took Pioneers most of the year to get the buggy out to the course, and by the time it got there, it was too late to get enough rolls in to qualify. Pioneers argued at the final Chairman’s meeting before Raceday that they should at least be permitted to roll during an Exhibition heat. But after a heated debate (and, if I recall correctly, the request initially being approved), the request to roll Keres in an exhibition was denied, as it was deemed to be too much of a safety risk. In “protest”, Pioneers took their sign, and their new buggy, and placed it on the Monument facing the Chute camera, so that it would be seen on the broadcast every time a buggy came into the Chute.
- New Buggies of 2007. AEPi and Pioneers weren’t the only orgs to build in 2007. SDC made a big shift in their build plan and switched to a reverse trike, making others green with Envy. Fringe also went the green route, making the first notable buggy to use the bright green tires their new buggy, Banyan. PiKA produced a new buggy of their own, Knightfall. And KDR produced what the off-white Perun.
- Fall Events Take a Look at History. Fall rolls began on Saturday, October 7 and were scheduled until Thanksgiving weekend, Sunday, November 26. But 2007 also brought some off-course Buggy to campus. During Homecoming, Tom Wood gave a presentation entitled “What’s Happened in Buggy Since I Graduated”, which has since morphed into his annual “History of Buggy” presentations.
- Push Practice Prompts Questions. On April 16, at 2:37am, an unidentified person called the CMU police, reporting that vehicles were blocking the road on Tech Street. CMU Police informed the caller that this was permitted, as it was for buggy push practice.
- Sweepstakes Budget. The budget for Sweepstakes in 2007 was $40,407.
- Predictions. Compubookie noted that Spring rolls had been decimated by bad weather, leading to inexperienced drivers and (thanks to the cold) slower pushers. On the Women’s side, he said that the race really came down to a battle of 2 teams: SDC and PiKA. His top 6 were: (1) PiKA A, (2) SDC A, (3) Fringe A, (4) Spirit A, (5) Beta A, and (6) SigNu A. On the Men’s side, it was a 3 team battle, between Fringe, PiKA, and SDC. His Top 10 Men’s teams were: (1) SDC A, (2) PiKA A, (3) Fringe A, (4) SigNu A, (5) Spirit A, (6) PiKA B, (7) Beta A, (8) Fringe B, (9) SDC B, and (10) KDR A.
- Broadcasting to the Course. According to the April 23, 2007 Tartan, for the first time spectators were able to see the action on all 5 hills when on the course. That’s because TV monitors were available on the course.
- Gun Problems. 2007 demonstrated the problem with having the starter use a gun. Sometimes, that gun malfunctions and doesn’t go off. This happened several times on Raceday, though we only know about a few specific instances. These included Women’s Prelims Heat 5, between Fringe A’s Bantam, SDC B’s Rage, and SigEp A’s Genesis, and Men’s Prelims Heat 1 between SigEp A’s Pandora and SigNu C. The announcer, Alan, also referenced that Women’s Prelims Heat 4 between SigNu A’s Skua and Spirit A’s Shaka Zulu had a restart, which we assume was due to gun issues. This may have caused a problem for SigNu, as according to the broadcast, SigNu partially dropped their buggy at the starting line for the restarted heat.
- SDC’s Triple DQ. For the last 4 years, SDC had felt like they were on the precipice of Men’s victory, only to have one thing go wrong and cost them the trophy. In 2007, it wasn’t one thing that hurt their Men’s A team; it was 3 things. Racing in Men’s Prelims Heat 10 against Spirit B, SDC A had problem after problem occur. The problems started on Hill 2, as the Hill 2 pusher gave too big of a bump and then couldn’t catch up to the buggy, completely missing the Hill 2 shove. Disappointed, the Hill 2 pusher stood, stunned, in between the curb and the white shoulder line watching his buggy roll. He seemed to forget that he wasn’t alone; Spirit B’s Shaka Zulu came up behind him and nearly hit him, leading to a possible DQ for interference (though, as Andy Bordick pointed out in the comments below, as long as the pusher didn’t move out of his or his buggy’s line, he would be entitled to stay in the spot and would not have been DQ’d for interference). SDC’s second problem came when their buggy, Psychosis, made its Chute turn. The buggy hit a crack in the road, and the crack caused the wheel cover on the back left wheel to go flying into the air. The wheel cover landed in the middle of the Chute turn, which was enough to result in a loss of mass DQ. Then, as the buggy got pushed onto Hill 5, the Hill 5 pusher gave the buggy a huge shove. Always a risk on Hill 5, the pusher never touched the buggy again, as he chased after it but could never catch up. He made a dive at the finish line and appeared to land face-first on the pavement, but couldn’t reach the pushbar, resulting in SDC’s 3rd DQ of the race, a Pushbar DQ.
- Spirit B’s Rough Year. The loss of the wheel cover from SDC in Men’s Prelims Heat 10 caused Spirit B to cut their roll short. Rather than risk changing their line to avoid the wheel cover, Spirit hit the brakes, earning a reroll on Saturday. Unfortunately for them, the reroll didn’t end how they would have wanted. The buggy, Shaka Zulu, took a very wide line into the Chute and the back left wheel caught the outer haybales, knocking the buggy out of the race and earning a DNF. Impressively, Spirit got the buggy fixed in under 20 minutes, as the next scheduled heat was Women’s Finals Heat 1, in which Shaka Zulu was scheduled to race, and they got the buggy out to the course on time.
- SDC’s Roster Swap. Because of their bad luck in years past, in 2007, SDC decided to take an aggressive approach to their roster construction. Instead of following the standard procedure by listing 4 A team pushers and 1 C team pusher as the B team alternates (which protects if 1 person gets sick or injured), SDC decided to take the risk and list all 5 A team pushers as their B team alternates. They also had 2 different drivers qualified in the B team buggy, Addiction, so they listed freshman Michelle Mirabella as the alternate driver for the B squad. But the risky maneuver paid off after the triple-DQ of SDC A’s Psychosis in the Prelims. SDC B’s Addiction snuck into the Men’s Finals in 9th place, and thanks to SDC’s roster decision, they were able to swap all 5 pushers with their A team equivalents. SDC also made the decision to swap drivers, having Michelle Mirabella race in the Finals as they felt that, even though she was only a freshman, she would be best equipped to handle the additional speed from the A team pushers. That turned out to be a pretty astute evaluation of her driving skills, though 2007 wasn’t quite the year that she would prove it. But the swap was successful, and SDC B beat their A team’s time from the previous day, clocking in at 2:12.50 and finishing 4th, earning a trophy.
- Grab The Pushbar. As noted in the past, in certain years, for unknown reasons, a particular type of DQ seems to be the big fashion of the year. In 2007, that DQ was the Pushbar DQ, particularly on the Men’s side. It began with Fringe D’s Brazen in Men’s Prelims Heat 4, as the buggy got a little away from the pusher and he lunged a bit at the finish line, making a windmill motion with his arm to try and grab the pushbar, but he couldn’t quite reach. Two heats later, in Men’s Prelims Heat 6, there were two different Pushbar DQ’s. The more exciting one was SigNu B’s Skua, as the Hill 5 pusher made a dive for the pushbar but missed, hitting the pavement hard and barely rolling out of the way in time to avoid being run over by Beta A’s Thunderstruck. Then the 3rd buggy in the heat, AEPi A’s Zephyrus, finished the race about 1.5 seconds before AEPi’s Hill 5 pusher. AEPi’s DQ was a result of inexperience; in practices, the Hill 5 pusher had given the buggy 3 shoves and then caught up to it for the finish, but he was unprepared for the additional Raceday speed, and couldn’t catch up to the buggy after giving a 2nd shove on Hill 5. Men’s Prelims Heat 10 saw one more DQ, as described above, as SDC A’s Hill 5 pushbar faceplanted when diving to catch Psychosis. Potentially jealous of all of the diving at the Finish Line, Fringe A’s Hill 2 pusher did a barrel roll after giving the Hill 2 shove in Men’s Prelims Heat 11.
- Women’s Heats Recap. Below are some of the notable Women’s Heats from Raceday 2007.
- Women’s Prelims Heat 1 – Beta A’s Thunderstruck appears to have suffered mechanical issues, as the buggy went into the freeroll in the lead, but was passed by both SigNu B’s Okapi and Fringe B’s Brazen at the Stop Sign and eventually stopped without finishing the race. Meanwhile, SigNu and Fringe were neck-and-neck throughout the race, and as they turned into the Chute, Brazen and Okapi got very close to making contact. Fringe B ended up DQ’d for the race, as they took the lead going into Hill 3, but the Hill 3 pusher failed to get out of the way of the SigNu buggy after transitioning, leading to a DQ for Interference.
- Women’s Prelims Heat 2 – Spirit B’s Seraph, out of Lane 3, led PiKA B’s Knightfall (Lane 1) into the freeroll, but PiKA pulled alongside and probably would have passed early had Knightfall not hit a pothole. PiKA caught up to Spirit at the transition flag and decided to make a pass in the Chute, taking a line that was well wide of the flags (she was almost in the middle of the road), which resulted in a very gradual turn that would have made for an awkward angle into the Chute. However, as Spirit turned into the Chute, PiKA’s line carried the buggy a little wide and the two buggies collided, with the back half of PiKA’s buggy hitting the front half of Spirit’s. The two went into the Chute together, and Spirit passed back on Hill 3. Spirit ended up winning the heat, but for the contact they were granted a reroll to be run on Saturday. However, the reroll might not have been a good idea, as what we assume were mechanical issued caused Spirit to finish nearly 30 seconds slower on Saturday than they were on Friday.
- Women’s Prelims Heat 4 – The race between SigNu A’s Skua and Spirit A’s Shaka Zulu had SigNu leading the way, but a great Hill 4 by Spirit pulled them even and even put the buggy briefly in front. However, SigNu’s Hill 5 was stronger and gave SigNu the victory in the heat.
- Women’s Finals – Women’s Finals Heat 1 saw KDR A nearly drop their buggy, Perun, as they raced to the starting line to avoid a 5 second DQ. Spirit A’s Hill 3 pusher, meanwhile, stumbled backwards and fell over after giving the buggy a final shove, but luckily Spirit was well clear of KDR and didn’t need to worry about an interference DQ. Finals Heat 2 saw SigNu A’s Skua gain slightly on PiKA A’s Wyvern in the freeroll, but they never got all that close and PiKA easily won. And in Finals Heat 3, Fringe A’s Bantam kept up with SDC A’s Psychosis on Hill 1, but that all changed when Fringe appeared to hit a big crack in the road, giving SDC some separation and allowing SDC to easily take the title.
- Men’s Notable Heats. The Men’s races were remarkably clean from a driving perspective, but that didn’t mean there weren’t any exciting heats (other than those noted above).
- Men’s Prelims Heat 2 – Fringe got very close to a 5 second DQ with their buggy Bantam, as they barely got it out to the line before the countdown got to 5 and nearly dropped the buggy on the way. This was reportedly the result of a timing error, which resulted in Fringe getting a reroll on Saturday.
- Men’s Prelims Heat 6 – Prior to all of the DQ’s, Heat 6 was one of the more exciting heats, as it pitted 2 A teams and a B team against each other. Beta A’s Thunderstruck unsurprisingly led into the freeroll, but the biggest shock was that AEPi A’s Zephyrus actually led SigNu B’s Skua into the freeroll. That all changed soon though, as Skua was the best rolling of the three buggies. Skua went on to pass both Zephyrus and Thunderstruck on its way to the finish line.
- Men’s Prelims Heat 9 – There was a double pass of the back two buggies, as SigEp B’s Genesis passed Beta B’s Problem Child in the freeroll, and then Beta passed SigEp back on the back hills, but neither were on camera thanks to the focus on the leading buggy, SigNu A’s King of Spades.
- Men’s Finals – Finals Heat 1 paired Spirit A’s Seraph and PhiKap A’s Svengali, but it was an uneventful heat. In Finals Heat 2, PiKA C’s Knightfall was able to pass KDR A’s Perun as the buggies turned into the Chute, and KDR passed back at the Hill 3-4 transition. Unfortunately for PiKA, the brakes on Knightfall didn’t stop the buggy in time after the race and PiKA C was DQ’d for drops. Finals Heat 3 was arguably the most exciting heat of the day. SDC B’s Addiction (using the A team pushers), coming out of Lane 3, swerved a bit at the Hill 1-2 transition and gave spectators a bit of a startle, though corrections were made and the buggy was just slightly behind PiKA B’s Wyvern going into the freeroll. SDC caught up to PiKA on the back hills and tried to pass on Hill 5, but PiKA used some gamesmanship to not let SDC pass, with PiKA winning by about ½ length and taking 3rd, with SDC finishing 4th. Finals Heat 4 saw the victors, PiKA A and Zeus, going up against SigNu A’s King of Spades, but other than multiple pushers hitting the pavement after shoves, the race itself was uneventful. And in Finals Heat 5, Fringe A’s slower Hill 1 time and a wide line in the Chute made all the difference, as Banyan easily beat SigEp A’s Pandora in the heat, but had to settle for 2nd in the race.
- AEPi Wins a Trophy. The addition of Zephyrus to AEPi’s buggy lineup may not have helped them make it to the Finals (their time of 2:31.70 would have placed them 18th, though they were DQ’d for a Pushbar violation), but it did help them begin a 4-year streak of winning buggy awards. Sweepstakes Chair Mike Rem gave AEPi the Chairman’s Choice award for their “unfathomable” improvement.
- The Exhibition Roundup – 2007. Unfortunately, in 2007 cmuTV decided not to include the Exhibition Heats on the DVD, and therefore we don’t have much information on the Exhibitions. The one that we (read: I) do know of was AEPi’s Zephyrus vs. Fringe’s Blizzard. Fringe made it into the freeroll first and led throughout. But on Hill 5, an AEPi alum began to push like a man possessed, and Zephyrus moved to the left to pass. AEPi successfully passed Fringe and won the heat. To this day, it is the only time that AEPi has ever passed a buggy on a Raceday (other than buggies that have spun out).
Raceday: Prelims on Friday, April 18 at 8:00am; Finals on Saturday, April 19at 8:00am
Sweepstakes Committee: Mizel Djukic (Chair); Nathaniel Gist (Ass. Chair); Holt Wilkins (Safety); Melissa Lee, Kristin Koslowski (Design)
Men’s Results: (1) PiKA A – Chimera (2:04.35 – COURSE RECORD); (2) SDC A – Psychosis (2:04.50); (3) Fringe A – Banyan (2:08.54); (4) Spirit A – Haraka (2:09.75); (5) KDR A – Powder (2:13.25); (6) PiKA B – Knightfall (2:14.85)
Women’s Results: (1) SDC A – Psychosis (2:28.84 – COURSE RECORD); (2) PiKA A – Chimera (2:36.60);(3) Fringe A – Bantam (2:37.25); (4) SigNu A – King of Spades (2:49.00); (5) KDR A – Perun (2:54.59); (6) PiKA B – Knightfall (3:05.90)
Design Comp: (1) Fringe – Banyan; (2) Fringe – Bristol; (3) SigEp – Messiah
Other Awards: (People’s Choice) Spirit – Kingpin; (Chairman’s Choice) PiKA and SDC; (Spirit of Buggy) AEPi; (T-Shirt) KDR
Weather: Sunny, 57-76 Degrees on Friday; Cloudy, 63-75 on Saturday
Buggy Book: 2008 Buggy Book Link
Raceday Video Playlist: 2008 Race Playlist
Prediction Score: 27/55 Men’s, 35/45 Women’s (Compubookie)
2008 was a huge year in the world of Buggy, as several longstanding Buggy records fell. And even more importantly for those of you reading this, one fed up alum decided to post some pictures on the internet.
- Taking Photos of PiKA’s Buggies. If you want to know the reason that you’re reading this article today, or this series at all, or anything on this site, it’s because one alumnus decided to take some photos. For a long time, PiKA was particularly aggressive about people taking photos of its buggies. I can personally attest to this, because as a freshman in 2005, PiKA’s brothers yelled at me so much about taking photos during Design Comp that I put away my camera for the day…and came back to Design Comp in 2006 with the rulebook in hand to point out that teams are specifically required to allow spectators to take photos (they didn’t complain after that first year). But by March of 2008, one alumnus had heard this one too many times. Sam Swift (’04), a Fringe alum, had taken photos of PiKA’s buggies for years. And after he was harassed by PiKA one too many times, he decided to do something about it. So he created the website pikabuggy.com and uploaded all of his photos from over the years. As he wrote, “This site was created in March 2008 after I was harassed one time too many by PiKA pledges for taking pictures of buggies. My point to PiKA is that this policy of screaming at people for taking pictures is annoying, completely unjustified, and wholly ineffective. My point to everyone else is to feel free to take pictures of whatever you want.” But while this was a fun rebuttal to PiKA’s policies, the real lasting impact of the site was that Sam put in a comment section. Soon, word of the website spread around the buggy community, both current students and alumni. And soon after that, buggy people started posting comments on the sites, talking about their favorite photos, buggies, stories, and anything else. All of a sudden, almost overnight, there was a single website for all buggy people, regardless of their team affiliation, to get together and talk all things buggy. The site didn’t last long – it was only active for about 6 months. But the reason its life was so short was because something even better would be birthed from it: the Buggy Alumni Association.
- Sweepstakes Budget Takes a Hit. The Sweepstakes budget allocated by Student Senate plummeted in 2008. It was cut nearly 25%, dropping from $40,407 to $31,730.
- New Buggies of 2008. Only a few buggies made their debuts in 2008. The most notable was PiKA’s Chimera, a sleek black buggy that looked the part of a PiKA buggy but had some added magic under the hood. SigEp began their transition into a legitimate contender with the short, stocky Messiah. And Fringe kept their streak going, coming out with the new buggy Bristol.
- Predictions. Compubookie kept his 2008 predictions pretty similar to 2007. On the Women’s side, he expected KDR A to get a boost with the addition of DG pushers and PiKA A and Fringe A to finish strong, but that it would be SDC’s trophy again. His full top 6 was: (1) SDC A, (2) PiKA A, (3) Fringe A, (4) Spirit A, (5) KDR A, and (6) SigNu A. On the Men’s side, he said it was a three-horse race between Fringe A (being pushed by Beta), SDC A, and PiKA A. His full Top 10 was (1) PiKA A, (2) Fringe A, (3) SDC A, (4) PiKA B, (5) Fringe B, (6) KDR A, (7) SigNu A, (8) Spirit A, (9) SDC B, and (10) SigEp A.
- More Weather Problems for Rolls. Tom Wood’s History of Buggy presentation officially became an annual Homecoming occurrence, as it was again scheduled for Homecoming 2008. Fall rolls were scheduled for every weekend from October 6 through November 18, except for October 14, October 20, and November 17. Spring rolls were scheduled to begin on the weekend of February 16, took a break for Spring Break on March 8-16, and then came back until Truck Weekend on April 12-13. Unfortunately, weather played a major role in Spring rolls, cancelling a number of rolls and leaving some teams to scramble to qualify.
- Exceptions Approved. The rules for qualifying for Raceday required 10 rolls for veteran drivers (5 in the Spring) and 15 rolls for new drivers (7 in the Spring), plus a pass test. But due to the frequent cancellation of rolls in the Spring, a couple of buggies couldn’t quite make it to those numbers. One of those buggies was SigEp’s Messiah, a new build that used a veteran driver but came one roll short of qualifying (though all of her rolls in Messiah came in the Spring, so she had more than enough rolls in the Spring to meet the qualifications). SigEp’s argument was that because this was a veteran driver who had more than enough rolls, including the pass test, in the Spring, that she should be permitted to drive Messiah on Raceday. The other buggy was AEPi’s Camo, which had more than enough rolls, but did not have a pass test. This, however, wasn’t for lack of trying. AEPi attempted a pass test approximately 5 times over the course of the Spring semester. However, even triple bagging their other buggy, Zephyrus, wasn’t enough to get the lead buggy to go slow enough for Camo to pass. And the rulebook didn’t help, as the rules stated that if an organization had more than 1 buggy, then all pass tests must be intra-organizational, preventing AEPi from attempting to pass another organization’s slowest buggy. AEPi’s argument at the Chairman’s meeting was that given that they did everything that they could to get Camo to pass Zephyrus, and that they should be allowed to roll Camo on Raceday because it was clear, given the circumstances, that Camo would not need to worry about actually passing a buggy on Raceday. A certain member of AEPi’s Buggy leadership (i.e., me) promised everyone in the room that under no circumstances would Camo pass another buggy, and offered that the front hill pushers would intentionally delay if needed. Both matters were put to a vote of the Chairmen, and both teams were unanimously permitted to race on Raceday. To be safe, AEPi B was put in a heat against a team that consistently finish in the Top 10 and was expected to run well again in 2008 – SDC B’s Envy – and Fringe D, a team that had consistently put up a time around 2:30 (for reference, AEPi’s B team had put up a 2:53 in 2007, and the buggy had only gotten slower).
- How Much is One Chairman’s Word Worth, Anyway? AEPi B’s Camo, approved to race and equipped with a promise of no passing, went up against SDC B’s Envy in Men’s Prelims Heat 2. Fringe D’s Blizzard was also scheduled, but the buggy never made it to the starting line. Any risk of a pass by Camo appeared to be eliminated approximately 1 second into the race, as SDC’s Hill 1 pusher took a sizable lead over AEPi B. Envy hit reached the crosswalk in about 28.5 seconds, while it would take Camo 38.5 seconds to reach that same point. So everything looked good for yours truly’s promise. And then…Envy suffered mechanical issues, as right before the Stop Sign, the brakes suddenly seemed to engage, and Envy slowed to a crawl. The buggy made it into the Chute but came to a complete stop right as the haybales ended. The Hill 3 pusher, who was waiting in his normal position, had to race down to the Chute to pick up the buggy. Meanwhile, Camo continued on its slow journey, about 15 seconds behind. But as SDC was stopped, Camo continued to move and slowly closed the gap. Camo entered the Chute just as the SDC Hill 3 pusher got to Envy, and Camo had way more speed than the stopped Envy. This writer suddenly panicked, knowing that he might be in trouble if Camo actually did have to pass. Thankfully, the SDC pusher got Envy going before Camo could catch all the way up, and Camo only got to within about 2 lengths of Envy. SDC B and AEPi B would finish with the two slowest times of the day, 2:53.84 (thanks to mechanical issues) and 3:12.55 (thanks to using the buggy Camo).
- Roads Paved. Based on the video footage, it appears that the upper half of the freeroll was paved between 2007 and 2008, providing a smooth surface to begin the fastest portion of the course. Of course, when fresh paving goes down, there’s always the chance of fast times…
- The Longest Standing Records Fall. The Men’s course record had stood for 20 years, after being set by Spirit’s Quantum Leap in 1988. It was a record that seemed unbreakable. But 2008 changed that. In Men’s Prelims Heat 9, SDC’s Psychosis had a couple of hiccups. The Hill 1 pusher got a tremendous jump off the starting line, but they missed the Hill 1-2 transition, and the buggy had a bit of a slide in the Chute. But the team was so impressive that none of that mattered. In what was an underwhelming call by the broadcasters, SDC and driver Michelle Mirabella shattered the 20 year old record and put up a 2:05.55, setting the new record. PiKA A’s Chimera, coming out of Men’s Prelims Heat 11, also put together a monster roll, breaking the 20 year record themselves, but with a 2:06.09 time, that run just became a footnote. But the tables turned on Saturday. As the second fastest team from Day 1, PiKA A found themselves in Men’s Finals Heat 4. There, the team and driver Melissa Bruner (nee Lee) ran a near-perfect race, and as they crossed the finish line, a new course record was set, with a 2:04.35. PiKA was celebrating so much at the finish line that one female supporter was nearly run over by Spirit A, who was still racing at the time. That left it up to SDC in Men’s Finals Heat 5. SDC cleaned up the freeroll, but once again missed the Hill 1-2 transition, and that minor detail was all it took. In one of the most exciting races in Buggy history, SDC clocked in at a 2:04.50, besting the time from the previous day but not quite catching up to PiKA’s new record. That gave PiKA the win, their 7th in a row. And PiKA’s didn’t just break the 20 year old course record; it also broke the all-time record of 6 straight wins, held by KapSig (1936-1941) and ATO (1953-1958). As a consolation, SDC was awarded the King of the Hill award for Hill 1 pusher Trent Sisson (a Hill 1 of approximately 15.82 seconds), but it was the toughest of SDC’s stretch of tough-luck losses in the Men’s races.
- Women’s Records Fall As Well. The Women’s record was set more recently, in 2004, but it was the first and, thus far only, time that a team had cracked the 2:30 barrier, so it also seemed like a difficult record to break. But in 2008, the SDC women towered above the rest of the competition. Their Prelims time of 2:31.15 was 7 seconds ahead of second place, making the only question on Saturday whether they could break the course record. Behind a 20.5 second Hill 1 by Queen of the Hill Mary Ashe, it turns out that the answer was yes. A tremendous roll by Psychosis and driver Michelle Mirabella earned SDC the new Women’s course record, as they finished the race in 2:28.84.
- Other Women’s Notable Heats.
- Women’s Prelims Heat 1 – It was a very tight race between KDR A’s Perun, SDC C’s Addiction, and Spirit B’s Haraka. KDR went into the freeroll first, followed by Spirit, and then SDC. Spirit made a move to pass KDR as they approached the Chute, but couldn’t pass. SDC then came through the Chute but hit a bump, causing the back hatch to go flying. Spirit carried so much speed into Hill 3, however, that the Hill 3 pusher was badly beaten by the buggy, and the buggy slowed down so much before the pusher could catch up that SDC was able to pass in the roll up. Spirit then passed SDC back on Hill 4.
- Women’s Prelims Heat 2 – SigNu A’s King of Spades easily won the heat, but the real battle was between CIA A’s Mirage and Fringe B’s Blizzard. The two entered the freeroll together, and it was unclear if any contact was made. The two were close together throughout, though we don’t see much of their race in the broadcast. On Hill 5, CIA came up and passed.
- Women’s Reroll – Due to a timing issue in Women’s Prelims Heat 4, CIA B’s Firebird din’t make it out to the starting line, but they were granted a reroll. Of course, during the reroll the CIA curse struck and Firebird’s pushbar failed to lock in place when the buggy reached Hill 3. The pusher had to stop the buggy in order to lock it in place, costing the team valuable seconds.
- Other Women’s DQs – In Women’s Prelims Heat 3, Spirit A’s Seraph failed drops. In Women’s Prelims Heat 6, KDR B’s PiRho also just barely failed drops, coming to a stop inches beyond the line.
- Other Men’s Notable Heats. The biggest excitement came from the course record runs, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t other exciting moments on the course.
- Men’s Prelims Heat 1 – SigEp A’s Messiah went into the freeroll first, but KDR B’s Perun proved to be the better buggy and passed as they approached the transition flag. However, Perun had a major mechanical flaw – the front hatch was not sufficiently attached to the buggy. As Perun turned into the Chute, the buggy hit a pothole, which jarred the front hatch loose and knocked it off in the Chute, earning a Loss of Mass DQ. The buggy continued on its way and finished hatchless, but it didn’t win; SigEp passed back on Hill 4, though Messiah got a little wobbly with some of the back hills pushes.
- Men’s Prelims Heat 3 – PiKA C’s Brimstone went into the freeroll first, but SigNu B’s King of Spades was gaining throughout the freeroll. SigNu made a move to pass in the Chute, and did so. As PiKA was turning, the driver saw SigNu and widened her line to avoid a collision, but she took it a little too wide. The tail of Brimstone ended up hitting into the haybales as the driver tried to correct the turn. But the buggy bounced off the bales, rather than going into them, and continued up the Chute. The Hill 3 pusher picked up the buggy and continued racing.
- Men’s Prelims Heat 5 – PhiKap had an interesting race. They were unable to get Svengali out to the line on time, putting the buggy down when the countdown got to “3”, resulting in a 5 Second DQ. The Hill 2 pusher than decided to give the buggy a very deep shove, not letting go until the buggy was past the crosswalk. The pusher then took a few additional steps and fell to the left, into the grassy area around Westinghouse Pond, where he proceeded to roll down the hill.
- Men’s Prelims Heat 6. SigNu A’s Skua had a Day 2 time, but they failed drops, as the buggy could not come to a stop before the line.
- Men’s Finals Heat 2 – PiKA B’s Knightfall and SigEp A’s Messiah entered the freeroll simultaneously. It’s unclear from the video if Messiah hit the curb at the start of the freeroll, but the two buggies were very nearly touching. PiKA ended up with the faster buggy though, and it pulled away during the freeroll. SigEp caught back up on the back hills, but PiKA stayed in front as they crossed the finish line.
- The Exhibitions Roundup – 2008. Much like 2007, cmuTV decided not to include the Exhibitions on the 2008 DVD, and therefore we don’t have much of a roundup. But based on my own personal videos, I know of 3 heats. The first heat paired SDC’s Rage in Lane 3 and Pioneers’ Keres in Lane 1. SDC won the race, staying in front the entire race, though we don’t have times. In the second heat, AEPi’s Zephyrus was in Lane 3 and Fringe’s Blizzard took Lane 1. AEPi was the first buggy into the freeroll, with Fringe right on its tail. Fringe passed early in the freeroll and won the heat, clocking in at 2:44.55. AEPi finished in 3:00.00. The third exhibition heat had CIA’s Firebird in Lane 3 and SDC’s Rage in Lane 1, but I don’t have the results.
- Steroid Scandal. The April Fool’s edition of the 2008 Tartan revealed a steroids scandal rocking the world of Buggy. An anonymous whistleblower from PiKA revealed the scheme, combining steroids and a special concoction known has “HSH” – Human Shrink Hormone – which causes the user to reduce in size by a factor of 3 for a 12 hour period. In the article, “PiKA” also accused others of cheating, stating that over the past few weeks, other teams have filmed PiKA’s practices, giving them an advantage and also an indication of widespread cheating in the sport.
- Design Competition. It’s interesting to see how a buggy outsider describes certain buggies, and the Tartan’s recap of the 2008 Design Competition gives us one of those perspectives. The most interesting comment was with respect to PhiKap, as the author noted that “while most teams had several representatives, usually mechanics and drivers, watching over and answering questions about the buggies on display, PhiKap’s present members didn’t have much to say about the fraternity’s single entrant in the competition; both were fast asleep from the moment their buggy, Svengali, entered the gym.” Svengali’s four-window design was described as resembling a high-speed train. AEPi’s two buggies were described as being from different eras, though looking similarly larger. CIA’s appeared somewhat heavy, while being sleek and shiny with their dropping pushbars. Fringe reportedly let anyone submit a paint design but left the final decision up to the mechanics. KDR’s Perun was described as being made with “cutting-edge composite construction”. Pioneers had Keres on display with its ornately designed wheels. PiKA’s sleek black buggies were determined to be some of the “cleanest-looking buggies”, thanks to the lack of duct tape on the buggies, whereas SigNu’s were not quite as clean, with duct tape patching scratches and damage made over the years, lowering their aesthetic affect. SigEp’s Messiah was notably lighter and smaller than other SigEp buggies, while Enigma represented one of the larger buggies from the organization’s past. Lastly, Spirit’s buggies were painted with a superhero theme, with Seraph, Kingpin, and Harak adorned with Superman, The Flash, and Wonder Woman colors and designs.
Raceday: Prelims on Friday, April 17 at 8:00am; Finals on Saturday, April 18 at 8:00am
Sweepstakes Committee: Andrew Hundt (Chair); Sundar Swaminathan (Ass. Chair); Seth Rosenblum (Safety); Melissa Lee (Design)
Men’s Results: (1) SDC A – Malice (2:03.30 – COURSE RECORD); (2) Fringe A – Banyan (2:07.25); (3) PiKA A – Chimera (2:07.70); (4) SDC B – Psychosis (2:08.20); (5) SigEp A – Barracuda (2:08.55); (6) Spirit A – Zulu Machafuko (2:10.45)
Women’s Results: (1) SDC A – Malice (2:25.60); (2) PiKA A – Chimera (2:31.15);(3) SigEp A – Barracuda (2:33.95); (4) SDC B – Psychosis (2:34.45); (5) Spirit A – Haraka (2:34.65); (6) SigNu A – Skua (2:40.55)
Design Comp: (1) Fringe – Bedlam; (2) KDR – Polaris; (3) SigEp – Barracuda
Other Awards: (People’s Choice) KDR – Polaris; (Chairman’s Choice) AEPi; (Spirit of Buggy) Pioneers; (T-Shirt) Spirit
Weather: Sunny, 48-65 Degrees on Friday; Sunny, 52-68 on Saturday
Buggy Book: 2009 Buggy Book Link
Raceday Video Playlist: 2009 Race Playlist
Prediction Score: 31/55 Men’s, 25/40 Women’s (Compubookie)
2009 introduced the world to the Buggy Alumni Association! But we also had one dynasty end while another began, some forced buggy retirements, and a special shout out to the races of 1920.
- Welcome to the Buggy Alumni Association. As noted in 2008 above, Sam Swift’s decision to post photos of PiKA’s buggies on the website Pikabuggy.com and allow for comments brought alumni from all across the buggy community together in a way they had never been before. So Sam took this idea one step further. Over the summer of 2008, a team of Buggy alumni consisting of Dani Barnard, Andy Bordick, Aiton Goldman, Carsen Kline, Adam McCue, Chris Stengel, Abby Sullivan, Sam Swift, and Tom Wood, coordinated with the Carnegie Mellon Alumni Relations office and various other Buggy alums and launched the Buggy Alumni Association! The BAA launched with 5 missions: to preserve and make accessible the history of the sport, to provide a channel by which alumni can remain connected to and support the sport, to support and improve undergraduate participation, to improve relations and raise interest in the greater Pittsburgh community, and to unite alumni across organizations. Sam obtained the website cmubuggy.org, and the site officially launched together with first rolls on October 12, 2008. The Buggy Alumni Association had its kickoff at Homecoming 2008 two weeks later. And the rest, as they say, is history…
- Rolls Reports. There were plenty of rolls in both the Fall and Spring, as weather didn’t cause too many cancellations. How do we know? The launch of the BAA and cmubuggy.org means that from this point on, we have full Rolls Reports! They’re all already available on this site, so for now I’m not going to include detailed information about rolls in this series, unless there’s something particularly special about it.
- Double The Haybales, Double The Fun. On Sunday, November 9, PiKA had the first serious incident of the year. Senior driver/Design Competition Chair/Course Record Holder Melissa Bruner (nee Lee) took the Chute turn in Chimera but spun out, hitting the inner haybales at a 60 degree angle from parallel. The buggy hit a gap between two haybales, creating a more intense impact that caused Melissa to slide forward inside the buggy, hitting her chin, nose, and hand. She was taken to the hospital via police car for precautionary reasons, but emerged in good spirits, commenting the next day on the BAA Website that “it takes more than a crash to keep this driver off the course” and “black and blue are the fastest colors”. The crash did, however, lead to additional safety rules in the rulebook. Beginning in the Spring semester, all drivers were required to wear mouthguards, and the Chute was required to have 2 layers of haybales for all rolls, both in practice and on Raceday (it had previously only required double bales on Raceday).
- Barricaders Get a Workout. The March 22 rolls report reports on “one of the scariest moments in recent memory” taking place at Sunday’s rolls. At one point while SigNu was rolling, an SUV entered the course after blowing by the barricades on the bridge near the Chute, and the car began to drive up towards the flags. Luckily, enough flaggers jumped out in front of the car and stopped it, getting it to pull next to the monument. One of SigNu’s buggies was stopped at the top of the hill and one at the transition flag, but the first buggy kept rolling and passed the car. Thankfully, there was no damage done, but Sweepstakes decided to rethink how they handled the Chute barricades. And that wasn’t all. On truck weekend, a short car chase at the Panther Hollow Bridge ensued when a car went around the outer barricade then raced across the bridge. Police were in pursuit, and the car tried to turn around when it reached the inner barricade, but police stopped the vehicle.
- Keres Says Goodbye. As noted in the previous year writeups, Keres was a unique buggy with a high and narrow wheelbase leading to a high ground clearance. But “high and narrow” is not a great combination when it comes to a buggy. That point was proven by Pioneers in the Fall of 2008. They had planned to roll Keres again for the 2008-2009 year, so they brought the buggy out for capes. With driver and Pioneers Chair Vincent Zeng aboard, the buggy was pushed on the sidewalk as any other buggy would be. But when Vincent hit the brakes, the buggy swerved and lost traction on the ground. The swerve caused one of the wheels to come off of the ground, and although this wasn’t the first time such an event had occurred (Vincent noted on the BAA Forum that the buggy “rarely made it through the chute with more than two wheels touching the ground”), in this particular instance the center of gravity shifted a little too far. The buggy rolled over, snapping off the pushbar (the second time the Keres pushbar broke off the buggy) and resulting in an immediate, and permanent, retirement for the buggy. Vincent points out that the buggy became even more damaged post-retirement, as former Sweepstakes Chair Mike Rem, a relatively large man, climbed inside the buggy and caused the axles to bend.
- The Last Messiah. Keres wasn’t the only buggy forced into retirement in 2009. SigEp’s Messiah came out to the course without issue in the fall. But it wasn’t so lucky in the Spring. On Sunday, March 22, Messiah made its way to drops when it suffered major structural damage. The rumor was that the buggy’s pan had cracked. The rolls report noted that the buggy had to be scratched for the day, but that was an understatement. Messiah never rolled again.
- New Buggies of 2009. 2009 brought a buggy boom, as most active organizations ended up building. SDC led the way with Malice (discussed more below), but they weren’t the only ones. AEPi built their house record holder, Kamikaze (also discussed more below). PiKA realized they had a winner with Chimera, so they built a carbon copy, naming the new buggy Nemesis. SigEp officially caught up to the competition by building their first truly competitive buggy, Barracuda. CIA also welcomed in the carbon fiber era with their first new monocoque buggy, Renaissance. SigNu used the Skua mold to build their most recent addition to the fleet, Bungarus Krait. KDR also put together their last build, creating Polaris. And of course, Fringe built again, producing Bedlam.
- What’s Buggy? Apparently this was a question that CIA Chair Erin Gantz May heard from some of her classmates in 2009. It’s a bit of a surprise to think that people on CMU’s campus didn’t know what Buggy was, but apparently it’s true. Erin wrote an op-ed in the April 6, 2009 Tartan, calling on all students to come out for Raceday during Carnival. If they listened to her, they were in for quite the day.
- Predictions. Compubookie believed in SDC on the Women’s side, though even with a returning team, he predicted that the stars would need to align for them to set a new course record. His Women’s top 6 were (1) SDC A, (2) PiKA A, (3) Fringe A, (4) Spirit A, (5) SigNu A, and (6) SigEp A. On the Men’s side, he didn’t “see any new records coming through the Chute this time around”, but he did see a very competitive race, with Fringe, PiKA, and SDC again at the top. His Top 10 Men’s predictions were (1) SDC A, (2) PiKA A, (3) Fringe A, (4) Spirit A, (5) SigEp A, (6) KDR A, (7) SigNu A, (8) PiKA B, (9) Fringe B, and (10) Beta A.
- Road Conditions Deteriorate. Tech Street had been deteriorating for years, and Lane 2 was becoming more and more of a problem. But things reached a boiling point in 2009. The potholes in Lane 2, with 1 in particular that had a diameter of approximately 12 inches, made it unsafe to have any buggies rolling in Lane 2. So Sweepstakes changed plans, switching to 2-buggy heats for all of the races.
- King and Queen of the Hill Becomes Official. Prior to 2009, the “King of the Hill” and “Queen of the Hill” designations were merely unofficial honors determined by the WRCT broadcasters. But in 2009, the two awards became official. And the first winners of those awards were PiKA Women’s A Hill 1 pusher Lauren Burakowski and Spirit Men’s A Hill 1 pusher Olusheun Ogunsunlade.
- A Real Sporting Event Needs a Jumbotron. The biggest drawback of attending Raceday was that if you didn’t have a radio tuned to WRCT, you only knew what was happening on the part of the course that you frequented. So people at the top of Hill 2 could see the start and finish, but they had no idea what was happening in the freeroll, and vice versa. That all changed in 2009. As part of a research project from a group named Get in Line Games, from CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center, a Jumbotron was installed at the top of Hill 2. The basis for the Jumbotron was the existence of polls and quizzes being conducted in between heats. But the impact was that anyone watching from the top of Hill 2 suddenly had a view of the entire race. It was so successful that in future years, the Jumbotron would be sponsored by the BAA and a second one would be added in the Chute.
- SDC Finally Breaks Through. Compubookie predicted that SDC would take both the Men’s and Women’s heats, but he didn’t expect that course records would be broken. However, he failed to consider the impact that SDC’s new buggy, Malice, and some shiny white wheels would have on the sport. Built specifically for A team driver Michelle Mirabella, Malice replaced Psychosis as the top buggy for both the Men’s and Women’s heats. Equipped with new, bright white wheels, no one could have possibly expected what happened on the course. In Women’s Prelims Heat 9, Malice proved that it was a buggy to be reckoned with. Following a 20 second Hill 1, Malice flew through the course, rolling past the Plug (in a Women’s heat!) and crossing the finish line in a stunning 2:26.00. The Men’s Prelims ended in a 2:05.30, not quite fast enough for the record set the previous year. But Friday had nothing on Saturday. With perfect weather, SDC came back out with a mission – a mission that they accomplished in amazing fashion. First, in Women’s Finals Heat 3, SDC went all out for the record and they got it, with a huge Hill 2 shove leading to a great rollout and a course record time of 2:25.60. Then, on the Men’s side, after their B team had just put up a ridiculous 2:08.20 time, the A team came on to the course in Men’s Finals Heat 5 and put together a near-perfect race. After a roughly 16 second Hill 1, the buggy got a big shove and nearly skipped Hill 3 entirely, requiring just 1 bump before the transition shove. As they crossed the finish line, the clock read 2:03.30, shaving 2 seconds off of their previous time and breaking the course record by over 1 second. SDC wound up breaking their organizational records for all 7 of the teams that raced in 2009. But not only that; the 2009 race would fundamentally shift both the perception of times in Men’s and Women’s races, and the times that teams would need to be able to set in order to actually win a race.
- The Battle for Chairman’s Choice. Normally I’d save the details about Exhibitions for the Exhibition Roundup, but 2009 is a unique case. Sweepstakes Chair Andrew Hundt was fascinated by the 1920 rule that teams had to swap wheels at a pit stop during the race. So at a Chairman’s meeting before Raceday, he made an announcement: For 2009, the winner of the Chairman’s Choice award would be the team that could best pull off the wheel swap during Exhibitions. Several teams took him up on this challenge. If memory serves, the fastest wheel change went to KDR, who pulled it off in something like 30 seconds (however, there’s no video of a KDR Exhibition, so it’s possible I’m mistaken). A particularly clever wheel change was done in Exhibition Heat 4, where Pioneers’ Chaos went up against CIA’s Mirage. The two teams were opposed on the front hills, but as they reached the back hills, they joined together to form, as Andy Bordick called it on the broadcast, “an orgy of pushing”. Both teams stopped together on Hill 3 to perform the wheel change, though CIA merely faked a change. Pioneers did make the swap, changing the front left and right wheels; but the mechanic who made the change was also the driver. This meant that Pioneers first had to unload Chaos, allow the driver to get out, make the wheel swap, and then re-load Chaos. It all worked though, and the two teams with a large assortment of pushers traded off the two buggies as they continued towards the finish line. The Chairman’s Choice trophy, however, ended up going to the last team to perform the wheel swap – AEPi. With their new buggy, Kamikaze, in Exhibition Heat 5, AEPi put together a full 9-person, NASCAR-style pit crew. Decked out in orange pit crew shirts, the Hill 3 pusher (a handsome gentleman, if I do say so myself…) began to push, then brought the buggy over to the “pit area”, where a flagman held out a lollipop sign reading “Brakes On”. The buggy came to a stop and was put up on milk crates. While 2 actual mechanics swapped the front left and right wheels, the rest of the pit crew took care of the other important elements of racing. One person brought out a chair for the pusher to rest on. Another wiped down the buggy with a towel, while another filled up the gas tank (i.e., the pusher) with “gasoline” (note: the gas can was empty). Another pit crew member indiscriminately used a Dewalt drill, while someone else massaged the pusher’s shoulders. Finally, once the wheels were swapped, the flagman gave the OK to go and the buggy was off, with some “encouragement” from the pit crew. The broadcast covered some of the pit stop (including some excellent commentary from Andy Bordick and Mark Estes), but the full pit stop is here:
- Timing System Failures. The timing system used by Sweepstakes wasn’t the most consistent, and it bit Sweepstakes during Raceday 2009. Multiple gun failures occurred, including two in Men’s Finals Heat 4 between Fringe A and SDC B. In one heat, the timing chips used in the buggies completely failed, causing Sweepstakes to rely on the backup timers. And in Women’s Prelims Heat 2, the timing system produced a time of ~2:42 for Spirit B, whereas the handtimers and the clock on the broadcast showed a 2:49.15, promptly an extra-long tape review during the post-Prelims Chairman’s meeting, where the Sweepstakes Committee physically timed the race from the broadcast to see which of those two times was accurate (the difference between the two times was great enough that a simple stopwatch on the broadcast would be able to tell which of the two times was correct). The 2:49.15 time ended up being the accurate one, and Spirit B was officially awarded with that time.
- Hay, What’s Burning? Late Friday night, after Prelims, an email went out to the Buggy chairs alerting them to a fire in the Chute. Approximately 2 dozen haybales were destroyed. Sweepstakes determined that there were still enough haybales in the Chute for the races to continue on Saturday, but for spectators in the Chute, it made for a very unpleasant smelling day.
- A Burly, Bearded Women’s Pusher. I may be biased, but in 2009 it felt like AEPi was the organization having the most fun. AEPi had managed to find 5 women who were willing to push a buggy, four of whom were good friends and a 5th who was “available”. On Raceday, one had come down with a stomach virus, but with no alternates, she still managed to make it out to the course to push to help out her friends. Unfortunately, the pusher who was “available” turned out to be much less so. Scheduled as the Hill 1 pusher, she never showed up to the course, leaving AEPi in the lurch. But with 3 pushers who really wanted to push, and a 4th willing to brave illness to race, AEPi decided not to scratch. Instead, mechanic Andy Long took the position of Hill 1 pusher. To make sure that there were no issues with a man racing against PiKA’s Women’s B team, AEPi cleared the switch with PiKA and agreed to give PiKA a 5 second head start. That was all PiKA needed to keep the lead throughout the race (even if one AEPi alum did start shouting for Andy to slow down because he was pushing too fast), and led to some excellent commentary from Andy Bordick about the “burly, bearded man” that “didn’t seem like a bona fide female” pushing Hill 1 for AEPi.
- Suit up. Every team has their own traditions when it comes to Raceday. For years, SAE had dressed up their buggy Limo and its pushers to fit a theme for the year. In 2009, CIA decided to begin a tradition of their own. In Men’s Prelims Heat 9, CIA C’s Conquest went up against Beta A’s Problem Child. CIA’s C team was their “fun” team, made up of the team’s mechanics. Because they were going for style, rather than speed, the pushers all dressed up in formalwear. This has now become a tradition for the bottom CIA teams, but as far as we can tell, it began in 2009. What makes the 2009 story even better is that thanks to Problem Child taking its name to heart, Conquest actually passed Beta between the transition and Chute flags. This meant that Conquest was the first to Hill 3, resulting in mechanic Paul Desiderio being in the lead on Hill 3. This great photo of him lives on as a memory of that moment, as he looks back to see if he can hold on to his lead (Ed. Note: he can’t). Of course, formalwear wasn’t the only style on the course. The KDR Men’s A team all went shirtless, wearing nothing but pink boxer shorts to push in Men’s Prelims Heat 10.
- Keeping Up The Pace. Don’t let anyone convince you that a Pacing DQ is only for someone staying ahead of a pusher to get them to push faster. In Men’s Prelims Heat 4, PhiKap A’s Svengali went up against AEPi B’s Camo. The race itself was no contest, as PhiKap easily won. Meanwhile, Camo was slow enough that an AEPi alum decided that he would record the entire roll on his camera. To do that, he ran alongside the buggy. He couldn’t quite make it the whole way, cutting through Flagstaff Hill at one point. But he picked the buggy back up on the back hills. Of course, he was wearing giant AEPi letters and cheering for the team, so Sweepstakes had no choice but to DQ AEPi B (whose time of 2:56.25 was the slowest of the day). Meanwhile, the alum returned to the team truck with his face taking on a distinctly green tint, and he vomited at least once shortly after the race ended. As for the video? It would make you sicker than he was just to watch it.
- Other Notable Heats. 2009 was, to this observer, one of the best Racedays in history, so there were plenty of notable moments on the course.
- Men’s Prelims Heat 1. The transition to Xootrs didn’t necessarily act kindly to Spirit, and the first signs were in 2009. Spirit C’s Seraph made it up the front hills first, in front of SigNu C’s King of Spades. The Hill 2 pusher for Spirit nearly got run over by SigNu, and may have caused Spirit C to be DQ’d, but it ended up not mattering. SigNu caught up to Spirit at the Stop Sign and made a risky pass on the inside, barely avoiding the curb. SigNu made it cleanly through the Chute, but Spirit fell victim to the Spirit curse and spun, breaking the rear wheel axle on the impact with the inner haybales.
- Men’s Prelims Heat 12. The race between PiKA B’s Zeus and AEPi A’s Kamikaze wasn’t expected to be close, and as Andy Bordick commented on the broadcast after PiKA made it into the freeroll first, “I wouldn’t expect [AEPi] to be able to pass PiKA, given the technology gap that’s still out there between the organizations.” What he didn’t anticipate was that PiKA’s Zeus would suffer what appeared to be a mechanical failure in the Chute, as the Buggy began to turn into the Chute somewhat sharply, but then stopped turning, causing the buggy to crash into the outer haybales. AEPi made it through cleanly.
- Women’s Prelims Heat 2. There was plenty of drama between Spirit B’s Zulu Machafuko and SigNu B’s King of Spades, being pushed by Kappa. SigNu’s Claire McKendry got a little antsy on Hill 1 and initially started before the gun went off, resulting in a false start. But they were able to reset and tried again, with both teams getting away cleanly. But that wasn’t the end of SigNu’s troubles. As SigNu made their Chute turn, the rear wheel shredded, fragmenting into several large pieces and causing the buggy to spin into the Chute, doing a 180 and coming to a stop before it hit the haybales.
- Women’s Prelims Heat 5. SDC B’s Psychosis and SigNu A’s Skua, pushed by Kappa, made for some excitement on Friday. SDC went into the freeroll first, but SigNu gained ground in the freeroll. As they reached the Stop Sign, SigNu went wide to pass, but couldn’t quite get there. So as they approached the transition flag, Skua swung the other way, going wide as they approached the monument. SigNu prepared for an inside line to pass as the buggies turned into the Chute, but Skua couldn’t get through cleanly and the two buggies made contact as they entered the Chute. The buggies bumped a second time as they reached the end of the haybales. SDC went on to win the heat, and SigNu A was granted a reroll.
- Men’s Finals Heat 1. PiKA A’s Chimera went up against SigNu A’s new buggy, Bungarus Krait. PiKA was well in the lead, but as the buggy turned into the Chute, it was “impacted” by the SigNu Chute flag. PiKA, unhappy with their 2:08 time, argued that the SigNu’s Chute flag made contact with Chimera’s pushbar, causing PiKA to slow down and warranting a reroll. You can decide for yourself on the video, but in what might be described as the most questionable of decisions Sweepstakes ultimately decided to grant the reroll request. PiKA ended up improving their time slightly, finishing with a 2:07.70, but it was only enough for 3rd.
- Men’s Finals Heat 4. As noted above, 2 different starting gun malfunctions led to plenty of problems for Fringe A’s Banyan in the heat. Fringe went into the freeroll first, but SDC kept it close and continued to gain, catching up to Fringe on the roll up to Hill 3 and passing, allowing SDC to shockingly take the heat. However, Fringe A was granted a reroll due to the starting gun malfunctions and shaved 2 seconds off of their time, finishing in 2nd place.
- The Exhibition Roundup – 2009. The biggest Exhibition story was the wheel swap, discussed above. But there were other exhibition heats as well.
- Exhibition Heat 1 – Fringe’s Brazen. CIA’s Conquest also attempted to roll during this heat, but CIA didn’t get the buggy out for the start of the race. They must have thought this was a standard morning rolls, because as soon as Brazen and the follow car cleared the Chute, CIA started pushing up Hill 1! The buggy got about halfway up Hill 1 before enough people yelled for the pusher to stop. Meanwhile, there was no clock on the broadcast, but Fringe appears to have clocked it at around 2:25.
- Exhibition Heat 2 – Sweepstakes Chair Andrew Hundt issued a challenge during a Chairman’s meeting that the Sweepstakes committee would take on any comers in an Exhibition Heat, as long as an organization lent them a buggy. So of course, AEPi dressed up Camo and lent it to Sweepstakes. Going up against SDC’s Rage, Sweepstakes never stood much of a chance in the race. SDC, meanwhile, had their Hill 1 pusher begin pushing with a heat, before taking it off halfway through Hill 1. And to prove that Pacing maybe does work, SDC put a coach on Hill 4 to scream in the face of their Hill 4 pusher that he was “walking”.
- SDC – ~2:32.7
- Sweepstakes – ~4:06.8
- Exhibition Heat 3 – SigNu. Not much to say about this one. They finished in ~2:27.4.
- Exhibition Heat 4 – The “Pusher Orgy” heat, as noted above, between Pioneers’ Chaos and CIA’s Mirage. Pioneers clocked in with the wheel change at ~6:16, CIA at ~6:20.
- Exhibition Heat 5 – AEPi’s Kamikaze, complete with Pit Stop as discussed above, went up against Fringe’s Bristol, who didn’t do the wheel change. Pushing Hill 5 for Fringe was Fringe’s 1970 Hill 5 pusher Henry Finch, celebrating the 40th anniversary of Fringe. Fringe finished in ~2:58.4, while AEPi clocked in with the wheel change around ~4:10.7.
- Exhibition Heat 6 – SDC’s Rage (Lane 1) vs. PhiKap’s Svengali (Lane 3). SDC nearly lost control in the Chute, but made a nice recovery to finish the race.
- PhiKap – ~2:28
- SDC – ~2:38
- AEPi Gives Competition A Try. From the outside, it may have looked like AEPi was just there to have a good time, but never really be all that competitive. But in 2009, AEPi started to take things a little more seriously. It began with their new buggy, Kamikaze. The fraternity took the lessons from the Zephyrus build in 2007 and tried to improve on them, in a sense by going back to basics. They ditched the technically superior, but harder to implement Ackermann steering for a simple wagon steering concept. They built a pushbar out of carbon fiber, rather than finding an aluminum one in the trash. And most importantly for the future of the fraternity, they decided to play it safe and include more layers of carbon fiber around the nomex core, giving the buggy the stability to not need an aluminum support shell and also last for a longer period of time. Of course, it wasn’t a flawless build. Something happened when the buggy’s measurements were converted into a foam mold and buggy shell, and the shell ended up a little larger than your average buggy. Once the buggy was built, AEPi took the buggy out to push practice to figure out who would push for the A team. The big question mark was on Hill 5, with a number of brothers trying it out. The shock to the fraternity came from eventual Hill 5 pusher Billy Litner. While everyone else clocked in around 23-24 seconds, Billy stopped the stop watch a hair over 20 seconds. Some of the brotherhood assumed that this was a timer malfunction, so they demanded that he run it again. The next run came in a hair under 20 seconds. Billy was immediately named the Hill 5 pusher. And the moves nearly paid off. AEPi set their house record with a 2:21.49, finishing in 11th place, just 1 spot out of a Finals position. They thought it would be the start of things to come, but internal politics would ultimately result in 2009 being the peak of the organization.
- Fire Safety Violation, Volume 1. Beta didn’t have a great year on the course. It took them a while to make it out to rolls, and when they finally did, they were essentially forced to roll with every team they could just to get Problem Child qualified for Raceday. They succeeded, but Raceday didn’t go quite as they would have hoped. Problem Child was incredibly slow, causing Beta’s Men’s A team to finish in 2:40.40 and the Women’s A team to finish in 3:40.35. But the biggest problem wasn’t on the course, it was off. A fire inspection of Beta’s truck discovered 5 gallons of a flammable liquid present in the truck. This became illegal in the sport after the fire of 1986 and by rule, Beta was immediately DQ’d from Raceday 2009 and handed a 15 month ban from participating in Buggy. This would have resulted in Beta not being able to participate until Raceday 2011. However, the 2010 Sweepstakes Committee would controversially lift that ban, leading to even more controversy that will come up next week.
- Wheel Drama. In the comments below, Mark Estes provided us with the amazing behind-the-scenes story of the AEND/Zero Error wheels that appeared the general buggy population beginning with Fringe in 2007. The story is so good that we’re moving it wholesale up here (with light editing):
“Zero Error did not get involved on campus until 2009 as far as I can tell, and did so by getting exclusive(ish) rights to distribute AEND wheels. Fringe should get credit for developing the AEND connection on their own. There is more to this story.
SigNu had been using urethane on their wheels from a number of urethane sources since moving to a smaller size in the early 1990’s (notably on Jama 2 in 1991). They moved to AEND as a supplier in spring of 2002 based on some ties between Duane Delaney and the skate board racing community (yes, Duane was once part of the gravity games crowd). Thus, AEND’s green wheels first rolled on campus on SigNu rims, which at the time were a bit larger than a Xootr. You did not see the green because SigNu did not want you to see the green. The AEND polyurethane wheels hit the course in the fall of 2002 due to finals being canceled due to rain that spring (they were prepped and on the buggy for finals 2002).
The relationship between SigNu and AEND broke down in an ugly way a few years after that (lesson: be nice to your wheel supplier). Fast forward to 2007 and Fringe developed AEND as a new source for goodly urethane in that green color. The pathway to AEND was likely due exhaustive research by Fringe and the success of AEND in making goodly wheels for street luge and other skate related events. Their stuff is good but they have had issues with a lack of primer between hub and tire [Ed. Note: This will come up again in 2012].
Meanwhile, the Ultimate Speed Race at Soap Box Derby had been running since 2004. By 2007, small rubber tired wheels similar to the ones run by PiKA were dominating that race (taking the top 3 places). The Zero Error soap box derby team, on the outside looking in at PiKA wheels, were in search for better wheels and reached out to Duane for help. Together, they hatched a plan. Zero Error would act as the contact point with AEND and would get wheels for Zero Error and SigNu. Zero Error gets wheels that might compete in Ultimate Speed and SigNu regains access to AEND tires. It all seemed good.
The 2008 Soap Box Derby race goes down with all sorts of wheels being developed by AEND and run on a new Zero Error car. White being the wheel color chosen for the race. Life seemed good, except that heavily juiced PiKA wheels were quicker, taking the top 3 places. The white AEND stuff on the Zero Error car was only good enough for 5th place, so they had more work to do. Duane got to work, this time working on rubber and running some tests on Zero Error urethane to sort out which flavor if any is the best. Archived samples of old Goodyear and PiKA rubber were pulled from the SigNu “wheel vault” and sent for analysis (on Zero Error’s dime). Enough research was conducted so that Duane (known as “the Cook”) should really be called a Master Chef. Duane developed a new formula for rubber tires which result in a Zero Error win in the 2009 Soap Box Derby (and a new record). Life seems good again except……
Another Ultimate Speed team showed up in Akron (site of the Soap Box Derby World Championships) with suspiciously green wheels in 2008. Mark Estes, thinking it would be a really bad idea if another team at CMU got access to AEND, signed up to “help” this team, thinking that might block others from participating in this manner. So, Mark’s new team had AEND green tires on their hubs. The team leader is a nice guy who’s main character trait is dogged simple determination. Once he gets an idea, you cannot shake it. The idea that dominated his head was getting Mark to make new wheels at (redacted) (hint: another polyurethane supplier who is/was no stranger to the CMU race course). Mark finally gave in and thus began his journey as a wheel maker (he had been a wheel wrangler for SigNu back in the day). Mark had the wheels but soon found that this same Ultimate Speed Racing team had no intent on actual testing, so he started looking for a 2nd team to help. He found them.
Fast forward to spring of 2009, Ultimate Speed practice day. Mark showed up with new wheels to test with his 2nd team. Zero Error is there. They were not thrilled to see a SigNu alumni working for a different team. While Duane and Mark saw it as gentlemanly competition, Zero Error disagreed. Zero Error won the race with Duane’s wheels, juiced. The teams that Mark was helping came in 3rd and 4th on dry urethane in a new smaller size (wheel inertia playing a bigger role than you might suspect in this race). Juiced PiKA wheels came in 2nd, 5th, and 6th after sweeping the top 3 spots the prior 2 years. The relationship between some Zero Error team members and Mark was not good, and got ugly.
Some of this ugliness was fueled by the observation of what appeared to be white AEND wheels running on SDC buggies in the spring of 2009 (setting the course record for a short time). The timing suggests that Zero Error had already set up shop on CMU’s campus before they knew that SigNu alumni were helping other teams. As Mark noted, it was ugly, and he likely contributed to that ugliness.
In any event, Zero Error delivered the promised wheels to SigNu and Duane left Zero Error and teamed up with Mark and the 3rd place Ultimate Speed Racing team from 2009 to form CSSN racing. This led to a flurry of wheel development and a string of records and Soap Box Derby wins (5 straight 2010 through 2014). That dominant performance helped contribute to the Ultimate Speed Race being canceled. Meanwhile Zero Error opened their shop online and green, yellow, white and purple wheels are common now and their wheels have done very well in the Buggy race.
Clearly Mark’s efforts to keep AEND urethane bottled up on campus were an epic fail. However, that did lead to some fun years in Akron and other opportunities related to wheels.
- 2007 Photos. Below are some photos from 2007.
- 2008 Photos. Below are a few photos from 2008.
- 2009 Photos. Now that we’ve reached the BAA era, there’s a whole gallery full of photos from 2009! But here are a couple of additional photos that aren’t included in that gallery.