Three Sleds Complete Clean Snowmobile Challenge Endurance Run

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville finishes the 2011 Clean Snowmobile Challenge Endurance Run.
The University of Wisconsin-Platteville finishes the 2011 Clean Snowmobile Challenge Endurance Run.

Nine snowmobiles hit the trail Tuesday morning at Michigan Technological University’s Keweenaw Research Center, but only three successfully finished the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge Endurance Run: the University of Wisconsin–Platteville, Clarkson University and the University of Idaho.

The first public event of the Challenge, the Endurance Run began with 38 miles around the Keweenaw Research Center’s test track. The Michigan Tech and University of Waterloo machines broke down during this initial stage and had to withdraw from the event.

The remaining seven sleds headed out onto the Keweenaw’s popular snowmobile trail system, traveling north 62 miles to the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, in Copper Harbor. Along the way, the State University of New York at Buffalo, the University of Maine and Ecole de Technologie Superieure also had to drop out. The University of Wisconsin-Madison completed the course but could not keep up the pace, so it was disqualified.

Steve Ruesch, driving UW Platteville’s entry, was the first to arrive at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge. “It was fun, a real nice day,” he said.

Last year’s Challenge organizers had to contend with unseasonably warm weather that cut the Endurance Run short. Conditions this year were a vast improvement, said Challenge coorganizer Jay Meldrum. “It was a great run,” he said.

“The trails were a lot better than last year,” agreed Shawn Spaunbauer, the driver for the UW Madison team. “It’s beautiful out there.”

Alex Fuhrman, who rode for the University of Idaho, said his snowmobile overheated slightly on the trek north, but that he was able to slow down and keep the problem well under control.

It’s not unusual to have half the field fall by the wayside during the Endurance Run. Last year as well, only three successfully completed the event. “All the contestants fight hard, but not everybody makes it,” Meldrum noted.

Not everyone on the trails was a competitor. Some rode just for fun. Two of the Challenge’s corporate sponsors took advantage of the opportunity to take their first snowmobile ride. “I have to buy one of these,” said Australian William Attard, representing Mahle Powertrain. Andrew Woods of Northern Ireland expressed similar sentiments. “Riding the Keweenaw trail is something,” said the Catagen representative. “I've got to do it again.”

While the snowmobiles in the Challenge’s internal combustion division were on the Endurance Run, sleds in the battery-powered zero-emissions division competed in the range test, to determine who could travel the farthest on a single charge. The winner was the UW Wisconsin entry, which kept going and going for over 20.8 miles. At 12.2 miles, Clarkson finished second, with McGill taking third with 7.8 miles. Michigan Tech, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology did not qualify for the event.

The Clean Snowmobile Challenge is a collegiate design competition of the Society of Automotive Engineers. Engineering students from participating schools across North America take a stock snowmobile and reengineer it. Their aim: to reduce emissions and noise while maintaining or boosting performance.

The Challenge continues through the week. The Snowmobile Public Display, set for Wednesday, March 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Copper Country Mall, is the best time to see the sleds up close and talk with the young engineers who built them. In addition, about 40 sponsors will be on hand to provide information on their products and services.

On Saturday, March 12, the public is invited to the Polaris Acceleration Event at 10 a.m. and the Polaris Objective Handling Event at 11 a.m., both at the KRC Test Course, when student riders will put their machines through their paces.

The Challenge is sponsored by Michigan Tech's Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics and the Keweenaw Research Center.

Challenge winners will be announced at the Awards Banquet, set for Saturday, March 12, at 6:30 p.m. in the Memorial Union Ballroom on the Michigan Tech campus. Tickets are $25 and may be bought at the door or reserved by calling 906-487-2750.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.