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Sophomore Preston Asche, 15, demonstrates how a driver is packed into the super-mileage car. Tribune photo by Gary Miller
Sophomore Preston Asche, 15, demonstrates how a driver is packed into the super-mileage car. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

Willmar students take 2nd in supermileage competition

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news Willmar, 56201

Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

A bunch of Willmar Senior High students have built a car that can get more than 500 miles per gallon. Of course, it's not a very practical car. It only holds one person at a time and a fairly small person at that. It doesn't have a trunk to hold groceries, and it can't pull a boat.

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But that's not the point. It's light and aerodynamic, and it placed second in the state last week in the Minnesota Technology and Engineering Educators Association Supermileage Challenge.

To get that high mileage, the team uses a technique that wouldn't work on the open road, either. They start their run by accelerating up to 30 mph, then shut off their engine and coast until they are going between 10 and 15 mph, when they start the engine and accelerate again. The six-mile run can last no more than 24 minutes.

Teacher Mike Kroeker and students Bradie Nielsen, Cody Edwardson, Preston Asche and Andy Martinek took their car to the challenge at the Brainerd International Raceway May 23-24.

The team made 13 two-lap runs around the Brainerd track. The mileage was measured after each run. They were scored on the average of their top 6 runs and placed second in the stock class with an average of 488.37 mpg. Their highest run was 542.06 mpg.

Only four other cars among the 93 that competed had higher mileage runs than Willmar did, and some of them were in the modified class, Kroeker said.

Willmar's Supermileage cars had been built in recent years as part of a class at the high school. This year, the class was canceled after 12 students signed up. The school needed at least 20 students to hold the class.

Kroeker approached the students who had registered for the class to see if some wanted to "at least build a car" as an after-school project. Eight signed up, but four dropped out for various reasons along the way, leaving four to finish and race their car. They started working on the car in November.

Three of the four are seniors, and one is a sophomore. Only one of them was involved in Supermileage before this year.

Nielsen said Kroeker talked to him about the car to convince him to join. Edwardson said his older sister was involved a few years ago, and he knew she had liked it. Martinek worked on the car last year and wanted to do it again.

Asche, the sophomore, was the only one who couldn't drive in the mileage trials. He turns 16 on Monday, and only licensed drivers were allowed on the Brainerd track. He'll be back to work on another car next year, he said.

The fiberglass body and aluminum chassis of the car were originally built last year. "If we use the same vehicle, we have to make modifications," Martinek said.

The team redid the body mounts, took 4 inches off the front and redid the entire electrical system.

Everyone on the team worked on all aspects of the car, but some of them had specialties. Martinek was the main welder. Asche led on the engine work and Nielsen on the electrical system. Edwardson did some body work and also helped out wherever he was needed.

"It's a great hands-on experience," Edwardson said.

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