Vanderbilt Formula SAE team focuses on race car’s engine intake system

The Vanderbilt Motorsports team surpassed last year’s scores in four of eight categories at the 2008 Formula SAE event May 14-18 in Michigan.

Despite gains in design and cost of its mini open-wheel race car and a strong showing in dynamic skidpad and autocross events, the Motorsports team placed overall 69th out of 121 entrants from around the world.

Considerable effort by the team this year was focused on a novel intake system for the engine of Vanderbilt’s car #62, but this resulted in unanticipated fuel supply problems during the endurance run, which significantly reduced the overall score.

“This was a year of innovation and building,” said A.B. Bonds, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and faculty advisor of the team. “The solid foundation in the areas of instrumentation and intake design that was created this year will put the team in a strong position next year.”

The competition involves the design, construction and testing of an open-wheel, Formula One-style racecar.  Cars are judged on a series of static and dynamic events. Included in these events are technical inspection, cost, presentation, engineering design, solo performance trial and high-performance track endurance. Scores in each event determine overall performance rankings.

The Vanderbilt team continued its tradition of impressive scoring in the business presentation (11th) and design (61st).  Performance in acceleration and skid pad was also strong.

Eleven members of the Vanderbilt Motorsports team, along with technical adviser Phil Davis, participated in this year’s SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) competition at the Michigan International Speedway (MIS) in Brooklyn.

The MIS venue provided teams with a different experience from previous years. Teams had the luxury of paddocking on asphalt with water and electric hookups in their paddocks.

All static judging took place in the NASCAR garages and suites. Dynamic events were staged on the back side of the speedway oval.  As an extra challenge to teams accustomed to running on flat surfaces, the endurance course was designed to run up on parts of the oval’s banked pavement.

The SAE event was first of its kind at MIS. The competition attracted more than 100 teams, including entrants from Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Finland, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, United Kingdom, United States and Venezuela.

Taking home first place overall in the 2008 competition was the University of Western Australia, followed by the University of Stuttgart and Technical University of Munich.

Vanderbilt’s scores:  autocross, 68th; presentation, 11th; skidpad, 64th; acceleration, 65th; design, 61st; cost, 69th.  The team did not place in fuel economy, or finish in endurance.  Fewer than one-third of the teams (42 cars) were able to finish the endurance event in a short enough time to score points.

The Society of Automotive Engineers is a professional organization for mobility engineering professionals in the aerospace, automotive, and commercial vehicle industries. There are more than 380 collegiate chapters at engineering schools worldwide. The Formula SAE (FSAE) competition is for SAE student members to conceive, design, fabricate, and compete with small formula-style racing cars.


Phil Davis NASCAR A.B. Bonds Vanderbilt Motorsports Society of Automotive Engineers