Cougar Racing team is set for success on and off the track

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: November 1, 2021 3:00 p.m.

Rendering of Mark VI Baja
Rendering of Mark VI Baja Photo: Ryan Rhodes

The 2020-21 season for the Cougar Racing team may not have played out the same way as previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic limiting their ability to travel to the United States for competitions; however, that didn’t stop its members from benefitting from the experience or donors from supporting the team. 

“Cougar Racing is an especially important student group to the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science as well as to the University of Regina,” said David deMontigny, Associate Dean of Engineering and Applied Science (Academic). “Being a part of Cougar Racing provides the people who get involved tremendous growth opportunities outside of the classroom and gives them a lot of useful experience for down the road.” 

Despite going through an irregular year and not being able to compete in person, Cougar Racing still had to overcome a new challenge – to build a 4-wheel drive Baja as per the 2021 rules set out by the Society of Automotive Engineers International. 

To achieve their objective of obtaining the parts and the knowledge needed to build the Mark VI Baja, Cougar Racing had mini teams in engineering, manufacturing, fabrication, and business – all working in parallel. Managing the teams was the responsibility of the team’s President Ryan Rhodes, who served in that position for three years until he graduated from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Industrial Systems Engineering this spring.  

Front-Suspension-Iso-View.jpg Rear-Drivetrain-Isometric-View.JPG

Components of the Baja. Credit: Ryan Rhodes

“The President’s role is to understand each area of the team and help which ever one is struggling most,” Rhodes said. “If we needed more help financially, most of my time would go to business and seek out more places to get financial aid, along with doing better public relations and recruitment. When engineering would begin to slip, I stepped in to help the drafting efforts or align design direction.” 

The work and team members rely on funding, which primarily comes from donors like SaskPower who gave $10,000 to support the team. To recognize SaskPower’s sponsorship, the company’s logo will be prominently located on the new Mark VI Baja when it is finished being built and on team clothing. 

“Having sponsorship is incredibly important – it is the only way to keep the team running,” said Hannah Dove, Cougar Racing VP of Business. “To think of a company like SaskPower backing our little team makes us feel very good because it shows us that we’re on the right track and that we’re using our knowledge to further the team and the industry.” 

“Racing is quite expensive so the more financially well off we are the more areas of research and development we can do,” Rhodes added. “It allows our team to use different materials, figure out better ways to do things and essentially get more interesting learning for the students.” 

Student learning is vital to Cougar Racing members both while they’re a part of the team and when they graduate and go on to work in their industry. 


Mark IV competing in California in 2016.
Photo: Ryan Rhodes

“What I found most beneficial with Cougar Racing is that it reinforced what was important and increased my knowledge out of the classroom,” Rhodes said. “If there was something I learned in school that could apply to Cougar Racing, it would cement that knowledge. Not only did I get my job at Thyssen Mining Construction of Canada because of Cougar Racing, I would attribute most of my applicable knowledge that I have post graduation to my learnings at Cougar Racing.” 

For most of the last year, Cougar Racing members couldn’t get access to their shop or travel to competitions because of COVID-19 restrictions, so Rhodes and the team seized the opportunity to use donations, such as the one from SaskPower, to make upgrades to their facility. They renovated and painted the office and shop, brought in new desks and workstations for students to use and upgraded the lighting. These upgrades were completed to achieve better recruitment numbers in the wake of COVID-19. 

“If the Baja, shop and team all look good, then students will be more driven to join the team as we look more professional and successful,” Rhodes said. 

Rhodes was able to get some time in the shop to work on his team’s Project Day project, which was creating a four-wheel drive drivetrain for the Mark VI. What makes this drivetrain unique and gives it a competitive edge is that it has a hydraulically driven front wheel drive system and mechanical driven rear wheel drive system. 

Although he won’t be around to see the completion and racing of the Mark VI, Rhodes is confident the team and the Baja are set up to succeed. 

“If the hydraulic system works as it was intended to, it should beat every off-the-shelf mechanical four-wheel drive system that resides on our competitors’ vehicles,” he said. 

Despite the challenges COVID-19 brought to the team, they are hopeful that they will be able to compete regularly in the 2022 season. Rhodes and the other six graduating team members are excited to see what the next generation of students come up with to further push the envelope on design, as Cougar Racing continues to travel on the road to greater success.