Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Supermileage Team Prepares For Return To World Finals

Noah Blankenberger sits behind the wheel of the Mater Dei Supermileage car that he will drive in London during the World Championshps at Queen Elizabeth Park. The Message photo by Tim Lilley

Mater Dei High School’s Supermileage team only needed less than a shot of gasoline to earn a trip to London for the 2018 Shell Eco-marathon Drivers World Championship. This is the Wildcats’ second trip to London for the finals in three years.


Let me explain what I mean by “less than a shot of gasoline.” In late April, the supermileage Wildcats used 27 cc of gas, which converts into .9129 oz., to travel six miles during the qualifying races in Sonoma, Calif., against teams from 11 countries in the Americas. Mater Dei averaged 841 miles per gallon on its 6-mile run, which included full stops at the end of each lap, to win the mileage competition. This put them in the qualifying race, where they finished in the top three and earned a spot in the word finals in London. They finished third in the DWC heat race, following  the battery powered car and the gas car that finished second in the mileage event.


According to Google, a shot of liquid is generally measured between 1.25 oz. and 1.5 oz.


Look at it another way. If you were to take an empty 12 oz. can of your favorite soft drink and fill it with gasoline, the car Mater Dei shipped to London on June 4 could make a round trip from the high school to the Toyota manufacturing plant in Princeton on that gas and have a little left in the tank.


“I don’t think we can lose,” said team coach Bob Neisen. “We are guaranteed a spot in the DWC race against teams from around the world. We may struggle during the qualifying race that will determine where we start in the final because it’s 15 fairly short laps, and there is a complete stop at the end of every lap. We only raced seven laps in Sonoma, so the dynamic will be different. But even if we finish last, it will be a great experience for the team.”


Neisen and lead adviser Dave Weiss had students testing various gearing combinations on a dynamometer in the team’s new on-campus garage after they returned from California. They also have made some test laps using the parking lot at the Southern Indiana Career and Technical Center.

“In the London qualifying race, we have to run within 95 percent of our mileage from Sonoma to start the final without any kind of penalty,” Neisen said. That means the car will need to average 798.95 miles per gallon; Weiss said the team is focusing on making at least 800 miles per gallon in that qualifying run.

“We will still make the race even if we don’t hit the 95 percent,” Weiss said, “but we will start at the back of the field, and they will take away some of our fuel as a penalty.” With so little gas to play with, it’s easy to see why they don’t want to lose any for the final.


Seven Mater Dei Supermileage Team members will depart Evansville on July 2 for London, where they will reunite with their car and begin final preparations. The traveling team includes Noah Blankenberger, Ian East, Gavin Grossman, Tyler Hilgeman, Darien Kuhn, Keegan Marx, and Zach Ondash. Blankenberger or Kuhn will drive the car in the finals. Neisen, Weiss and other adults will accompany them.


The team will line up on the course in London’s Queen Elizabeth Park against the other Americas qualifiers from Saskatchewan University in Canada and St. Thomas Academy, a boys’ Catholic military school in Mendota Heights, Minn. Other competitors will include teams that qualified in Asia and Europe.


The Wildcats’ and Saskatchewan University’s cars use gas-powered internal combustion engines.  St. Thomas’ car is a battery-powered electric vehicle.


A 50cc Yamaha engine provides the power for the Mater Dei racer.  Neisen said its performance “sweet spot” is right around 7,000 rpm. The drive train includes a continuously variable automatic transmission and a chain final drive. The team can interchange final-drive gears, and Neisen, Weiss and the students have focused on getting just the right combination for the London showdown. They also have removed the seals from the bearings in the wheels to improve performance. “We are sacrificing ease of maintenance for one day of optimum performance,” Neisen explained.

Neisen and Weiss said the team has received great help from a variety of sources on its quest for a return trip to the finals. In particular, they thanked TSF Co., Dexterous Mold & Tool, Blankenberger Brothers of Evansville, and long time supporters Dan and Mary Ritter, Gene and Julie Young, Alles Brothers Furniture of Mt Vernon, the Cummins family, the Riney Family, the Spahn family, the West Side Nut Club, Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Indiana and Paul Loehr Racing.

The world final is scheduled for July 9. You will find updates on the event posted to the Mater Dei Supermileage Team Facebook page. Just go to and search for Mater Dei High School Supermileage Team.