Rubber meets the road

Published 9:35 pm Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Alden-Conger supermileage team visits Ferrari factory for reward

ALDEN — Fourteen is a meaningful number for one Alden-Conger student. It’s the number of students on the supermileage team at Alden-Conger.

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It’s also the number of engineers at Ferrari, he said.

“You think Ferrari’s a huge company, and really they’re a lot like some of us,” supermileage team member Levi Sorensen said.

Sorensen was one of several supermileage team members who returned Thursday from five days in Italy, hosted by Ferrari after the team’s third-place finish at the September Shell Eco-marathon world competition in London.

This is traditionally an experience reserved for the first-place team, but after the official race was stopped early due to rain, competition rules dictate the awards be given out based on qualifying lap times. Supermileage team co-advisor Amy Wallin said the top three teams were all within 8 seconds of each other, and from the way the race began, it wasn’t clear who the winner would have been had it continued. Therefore, all three teams were invited to visit Ferrari.

The Alden-Conger supermileage team got to spend a day at the Ferrari track in Italy as part of its five-day experience. – Provided

In a time trial in Italy, the Alden-Conger team came in second of the three teams.

“They’re not the prettiest cars, but they have the mechanics down,” Wallin said of the team’s handiwork.

The trip included a day at the Ferrari factory, time at the Ferrari museum, a simulator experience, a track day and a trip to a restaurant decked out in racing memorabilia and history that drivers frequent, Wallin said. The team also gave a presentation about their year and journey with the car, which the team calls “All-American.”

There’s a rural farm scene painted on it that prominently features a cow. Their art teacher drew it on, supermileage team member Gage Sailor said.

“We’re just giving everybody a taste of rural America,” team member and driver Logan Sailor said.

But rural America is getting a taste of the world, too.

Ferrari offered the supermileage team a chance to visit the factory after the team placed third at a world competition in London. – Provided

“It’s a small town … our population is 500, and we’re competing against the world — literally,” Babcock said.

The time at Ferrari gave the team a chance to have conversations about the construction of the car. Logan Sailor said the team is working with carbon fiber, something Ferrari works with as well.

“It gave us more motivation to go back and look at the car,” Logan Sailor said.

It also showed the team that there was room for improvement, Babcock said.

Traveling internationally with the supermileage car means it has to be shipped in advance. After the qualifying regionals in Detroit, the car was shipped out almost immediately for London. Sorensen said it’s a stressful process to have the car shipped.

“The motor was probably still hot when we put it in the crate,” Gage Sailor said.

The team had it back for about a month between then and when they packed it back up in its 12-foot-by-5-foot-crate for the trip over to Italy. They flew with the motor so they would have it in time to work on their next car.

Wallin said the opportunity to present on their year followed three other presentations the team was able to give to service organizations earlier in the year. She has seen the team grow, mature and develop speaking skills. She said they know what they’re talking about.

“They’re problem-solving and making decisions that lead to success while competing against colleges and university teams that consist of engineer students, you know,” Wallin said. “And these are high school students that are generally farm kids or just hands-on hardworking kids.”

She said she has also seen the team step up to fill leadership positions within the team. After last year, the team lost some active members. Some of the current team members have stepped up and put the time in, she said.

“They know how to get the job done,” Wallin said. “They know how to fix things on the fly. It might be with duct tape, but they do what it takes.”

This sort of attitude and style is what Wallin said led the emcee at the presentation event to call Alden-Conger Supermileage the mavericks.

“They keep coming back,” Wallin said. “Don’t count them out.”

Logan Sailor’s assessment of the team was slightly different. He called the team “a bunch of farm kids that like to tinker.”

But he amended that statement later.

“We’re just a bunch of farm kids that don’t like to be beat,” he said.


The Alden-Conger supermileage team recently returned from a trip to Italy. – Provided

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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