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Juiced and 20+ miles to go...

LIME ROCK — The 2011 Connecticut Electrathon autumn competition was held Tuesday, Oct. 25, at Lime Rock Park on the full infield autocross course in the track’s infield. There were a record number of entries — 20 — with high school and college teams from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.Electrathon is a national program for engineering and technical students who design and construct electric race cars under the auspices of teachers and professors in order to advance the state of all-electric mobility.Twice a year, Lime Rock Park donates its facility and manpower to the Connecticut division of Electrathon, which is organized by former Torrington High School tech teacher Mike Grella of Litchfield. The spring race is usually in May, and the autumn contest in October.The winner of each class (there are four) is the team that can cover the most miles in one hour while lapping the .4-mile Lime Rock autocross. Each team starts with identical, fully charged Optima 12-volt car batteries, so the test is one of design efficiency, minimal rolling friction and aerodynamic drag, minimal weight (the cars are ballasted with lead to equalize driver weights) and driving tactics, strategy and technique. Lime Rock’s autocross is a stern test, with 11 corners and significant elevation changes.Even within the relatively strict rules of the Electrathon formula, the variety of designs and construction the students come up with can be fascinating.Of note was the Long Lake, N.Y., Central School (pre-K – 12) team, which drove nearly 300 miles to Lime Rock from upstate New York, having to leave at 4 a.m. to make the race, their first time at this event. The team finished second in the Novice Class. Also making “long hauls,” as is said in the racing business, were Rockport High School (shoreline north of Boston), Franklin County High School (central Mass., near Deerfield) and The College of New Jersey (TCNJ, Ewing, N.J., near Princeton). The event is extremely well organized and with each team comprised of student engineers and their many friends and family — with the help of Central Connecticut State University volunteers, who handle tech inspection, flagging and timing and scoring — there were close to 350 people on site. The weather was stellar, the competition was fierce but friendly, and everybody had a good time... and learned a lot.

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