FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP - Of the dozen snowmobiles lined up to compete in the Endurance Run as part of the Society of Automotive Engineers Clean Snowmobile Challenge Tuesday, only four, including Michigan Technological University, completed the trek.
The Clean Snowmobile Challenge is being held this week, celebrating 10 years in the Keweenaw, at the Keweenaw Research Center in Franklin Township.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and Clarkson University were the other three teams to complete the Endurance Run to Copper Harbor.
Stacey Kukkonen/Daily Mining Gazette
Snowmobiles are seen lined up for the start of the Endurance Run as part of the Society of Automotive Engineers Clean Snowmobile Challenge Tuesday at the Keweenaw Research Center in Franklin Township.
Before leaving for each trip, snowmobiles are fueled with a secret ethanol.
"They are putting the mystery fuel in," said Jay Meldrum, director of the KRC. "I don't tell them what the fuel is. I don't tell them how much ethanol is in it. It can be anywhere from 10 percent to 39 percent ethanol."
Meldrum said Tuesday's events were going well and nine teams out of 12 were ready to go on the Endurance Run.
Forty miles were to be finished by each team on the test course at the KRC before taking the 60-mile trip to Copper Harbor.
"Fuel economy is one of the things we stress in addition to noise," he said. "In order to be a viable sport, you have to be economical."
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of the teams that does well at the Clean Snowmobile Challenge every year - something the team leader credits with teamwork.
"We work hard together," said Shawn Spannbauer.
This year, the team brought a new sled. They took the engine used throughout the last three years and implemented it into the snowmobile.
"We lost almost 100 pounds," he said.
The sled is expected to glide over snow more easily and to do well in the competition. Spannbauer said it's about starting with a quality engine. The team does its own engine tuning, puts in new equipment to lower the peak RPM and makes it efficient while keeping emissions low. The team also improves the sled by adding an electronic throttle, allowing the user to accurately tune it and a three-way catalyst is operated on the machine, he said.
"It's geared toward what the Clean Snowmobile Challenge wants as far as points go," he said. "We don't put in any more gasoline than it needs to burn and we don't put in any less. It's the perfect mixture."
The snowmobile weighs slightly more than 600 pounds fully loaded with fuel.
"If it works today and nothing goes wrong, we should do well," Spannbauer said.
The Michigan Tech team also puts a considerable amount of work into its sleds, this year entering the electric sled category and the internal combustion category.
"We really work together and we have a lot of good guys on our team," said team leader Dylan Truskolaski.
The team credits Michigan Tech for allowing them to work with a lot of different technologies and the sponsors help the team, as well.
Truskolaski, who is also the rider, said the snowmobile has to be successful at handling and suspension. They are using the same sled as last year with several modifications.
"It's actually a two-stroke (engine)," he said.
Although the zero emissions sled didn't get through the inspection and was eliminated, Truskolaski said the team would do well with the internal combustion sled in other events, such as the Endurance Run.
The sled for the Tech team was totally redesigned, making it quieter with a muffler and catalytic converter system and cleaner.
A couple of teams were unable to start their snowmobile for the Endurance Run Tuesday. Each team is expected to clock 100 miles, and today, an Endurance Run make-up miles event will be held.
Four entries were unable to start the Endurance Run: Kettering University, Northern Illinois University, State University of New York at Buffalo and the University of Waterloo. Another four teams completed the initial part of the run and then had to pull out on the trail.
Today, the teams will have their sleds on display from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Copper Country Mall and the public is welcome to attend.