By Deb Patterson
SYRACUSE — Wawasee’s Supermileage team returned home with a police and fire escort Saturday afternoon, Oct. 14, after a week in Bangalore, India. The team participated in the Shell Eco-Marathon, a world supermileage competition between a few high schools, but mostly colleges, universities and tech schools.
Out of 400 cars, Wawasee finished 11th in the world. This is the second world competition for Wawasee, the last being in 2019 in London, England, where they unofficially came in eighth.
Allen Coblentz, instructor for the group, was proud of the team and their representation of Wawasee and the community. The team overcame some challenges in the competition and “They interacted so well with the other schools,” he said. Some traded hats or T-shirts with teams from other countries.
“I’m so proud … represented Wawasee so well. They did a great job. You think of Wawasee as classy and helpful. They shared tools and items with other teams. … Proud of them and their representing the school and the community. It’s a tribute to their parents and how they were raised.”
Coblentz is also proud of the team in overcoming some challenges faced at the competition.
While the team didn’t leave until Saturday, Oct. 7, the supermileage car — an urban concept car with an internal combustion engine — was crated and shipped out the end of June. It arrived one week before the team.
While they attempted to protect as many parts as possible, some parts did not fare well after 1 1/2-2 months in salt air. Coblentz stated when the car was unpacked some parts were rusted and needed cleaned.
The team spent Monday working on the car and preparing for technical inspection later that day and Tuesday. Once the inspection was completed, they were able to get the car on the track for testing and driver training.
Charlie Krull, who was the backup driver in qualifications, was put in the hot seat. The regular driver was unable to get out of midterm exams at college.
“It was interesting and as always things happen,” said Coblentz. The two days of testing resulted in no issues, including a short test time on Wednesday morning. Then on the first official run, things fell apart. “We had some electronics go wrong on the engine,” Coblentz related. The team had two hours to get it fixed and were under pressure.
The pressure was not only the time frame, but having to work in a room and with limited tools. “Under pressure and limitations, they got the work done. It did not run as good as before,” he stated. At the Americus competition last year, the car went 650 miles per gallon. This run was only 300 miles per gallon.
The team did get one successful run, and when the first round was done, they were in 11th place. They needed to be in 10th place to continue into the second round. “We didn’t have all we needed after the first run,” Coblentz said. He explained they could only ship what they thought they would need and they had to separate things out for shipping regulations.
Wawasee was one of three high school teams from the United States.
“We’re super proud of where we’ve come and be competitive on a world scale,” said Coblentz. He is in his 25th year of coaching the supermileage teams.
The group did spend their last day sightseeing before boarding their evening flight home Friday, Oct. 13. They visited a palace, temple, did some shopping, visited a few botanical gardens and the capitol building. They even experienced the country’s suggestions of laws — buses to mopeds weaving in and out of traffic, use of horns and driving on the opposite side of the road than in the United States.
“It was good. They were able to see some places and experience other cultures. It broadened their understanding of the world,” said Coblentz.
Coblentz was assisted by Dominick Faurot and Scott Fox, who were also chaperones. Mindy Coblentz was also a chaperone.
Now the team is gearing up for the Shell Americus competition in Indianapolis the first part of April, a race Wawasee has won the last five years.
But there’s a challenge. The supermileage car will not return from India until around Christmas. “The team has been put at a disadvantage,” Coblentz said. “They will have January, February and March to work on the car.”
But the team has proven it can overcome adversity, as every time adversity has come up, the team has pulled through. “If you think about it, the variables they work with, the decisions and time frame, they have overcome,” said Coblentz.