UPDATE: Full gallery added after the jump.

Politeknik Ungku Omar has won the 2011 Perodua Eco Challenge, held over the weekend at Melaka International Motorsports Circuit (MIMC). The team from Ipoh managed to squeeze 24.07 km from just half a litre of Petronas Primax 95 Xtra petrol, beating closest challengers Universiti Industri Selangor (Unisel, 19.1 km) and Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM, 17.42 km).

PUO took home RM20,000 cash for their efforts, while Unisel and USM won RM10,000 and RM5,000 respectively. In the Engineering category, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) took home RM15,000 for bagging the top place ahead of USM and Universiti Kuala Lumpur-Malaysia Spanish Institute.

In the minor “Design and Participation” category, Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP) took home RM5,000 as the chosen team. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and UTM were second and third.

In the previous two editions, USM took top honors in the automatic category, so they should be a little disappointed at not meeting their “25 km and above target”. They were banking on their ace card, which is cylinder deactivation for the supplied 660 cc three-pot engine. Their simple looking 370 kg machine ran on only one cylinder full time, logical since this “race” doesn’t require much power or speed.

By the way, this year’s PEC is a much tougher challenge, as teams were only given one engine and one (manual) gearbox, as opposed to a complete car in previous years. This means that instead of just stripping and modifying Vivas, students have to also work on chassis and bodywork. And because of this extra work, the seed money given to each team has increased from last year’s RM10k to RM17,500. Also, instead of one litre, they now have to squeeze miles out of 0.5 litres of fuel.

The winning team’s lean machine on skinny tyres relied on measures such as a fuel tank that’s “ngam ngam” in size, with minimal space for air and a very lean 22:1 air fuel ratio, according to team leader Mohd Azmi.

Each team had their own focus – the Universiti Tenaga Nasional (Uniten, last year’s M/T winner) team worked hard on CFD, and were proud of their car’s 35:65 weight distribution, enthusiastic second year Mechanical Engineering student Tan Win Yew told me.

Another team that mentioned “good handling” was Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), whose car had all round double wishbone suspension and 40:60 weight distribution. The logic is that a car that can corner well and relatively fast can maintain momentum by minimising the need to brake.

Some other things caught the eye of yours truly. This year’s grid had a female driver in the small frame of Nur Effarini. The pint sized final year Mechanical Engineering student weighs just 45 kg, in contrast with the big guy driving for PUO. She should have weighed even less after the race, as the UTM car was stuck on the steaming grid for quite some time due to an electrical glitch (according to a team member). It started in the end, and they went home with smiles and cash.

Another eye catcher was the “Lotus Elise” of UKM. In contrast with the skeleton look of rivals, they wanted to do a “body that can be commercialised”, which according to them was part of the original regulations, including closed wheels. Apparently, the rules changed, but they stuck to the plan. The batik cabin is questionable, but it’s not easy to fabricate that body in a short time. But because of the extra weight, they were never really in contention.

Another looker for me is the “Caterham style” white Unisel car with orange stripes. Tanjung Malim based Politeknik Sultan Azlan Shah had the most outrageous looking car on the grid. Their hot rod style “classic car concept” didn’t look too lightweight and aerodynamic, though.

The Perodua Eco Challenge is one of the more unique CR initiatives in town, challenging student minds and allowing them an outlet to experiment, and be hands on in practising what they learn from books. Congratulations to the winning teams, see you again next year in Melaka!

Full gallery from the event is after the jump. Spot anyone you know?

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