Even though cold temperatures and brisk winds forced people to dress like they were ice fishing, it didn’t stop over 60 schools with more than 120 cars from participating in the first day of the Supermileage Challenge on Tuesday.
For 26 years, teams of high school and middle school students have come together at Brainerd International Raceway to see how far they can go on one gallon of fuel in custom-built cars that sort of look like souped-up go-karts.
“They look like miniature Corvettes,” said Keith Anderson, co-chair of the Supermileage Challenge.
The competition is sponsored in part by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and includes an E85 division as well as stock, exhibition, experimental, electric and modified. The stock, exhibition, experimental and modified divisions run on standard E10 fuel.
The team from Litchfield estimates it spent at least 60-80 hours building its E85 car, which features an “Ethanol performs” decal on the front and a “Minnesota Corn Growers” decal on each side.
“This type of thing is really for hands-on kids,” said Litchfield team member Cole Weseman. “It’s great because it lets you get your hands dirty and try different ideas to improve your cars.”
In addition to competing every year in the Supermileage Challenge, the team from Alden-Conger High School also competes in the Shell Eco-marathon Americas, a similar event to Supermileage held annually in Houston.
Alden-Conger took home a second-place trophy in the E100 division in Houston this year. It also took second in diesel prototype and first in urban concept.
And the weather was much warmer in Houston than it was in Brainerd on Tuesday.
“It was like 80 degrees and sunny, just perfect,” said Logan Sailer as he stood with teammates waiting to run on Tuesday. At Supermileage, the average of your best six runs are computed for the final score. Last year, the winning E85 car from Stewartville High School got over 138 miles per gallon.
Of course, a little cold weather wasn’t going to discourage Sailor, his teammates or any of the other 700-plus students at the track.
“We put a lot of time in these cars so it’s great to come out here and see how we stack up,” Sailor said. “We have a lot of fun out here and can’t wait to come every year.”
The Supermileage Challenge wraps up Wednesday. Check back for full results, additional photos, and even a few videos later in the week.