Motorsports secures strong overall finish at Formula SAE competition in Michigan

Vanderbilt Motorsports secured a strong 26th place overall finish at this year’s Formula SAE competition held at Michigan International Speedway May 13-16.

The event, organized by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), attracted over 90 registered teams from around the world, including colleges and universities from Austria, Singapore, Venezuela, Brazil, and more.

Overall honors went to Graz University of Technology, from Austria, followed closely by Rochester Institute of Technology, and Canada’s Ecole De Technologie Superieure.

Vanderbilt’s 26th place finish was one of the highest in school history. Vanderbilt’s 2009 contender was an innovative car employing new philosophies in chassis design, steering, powertrain, and fabrication.

“With so many changes, the result the team achieved was impressive to say the least. The team has already begun working to refine this year’s car to learn lessons for next year, and will be looking for an even better result then,” said VU Motorsports adviser A.B. Bonds, professor of electrical engineering and computer engineering.

Technical Inspection & Business Presentation

The competition began with a technical inspection of all the cars in order to ensure safety and rules compliance. Vanderbilt passed inspection with relative ease, although modifications were carried out in order to meet strict sound level regulations.

After technical inspection, static events began with the cost event and business presentations. In the cost event, Vanderbilt managed 16th place. Through good organization and efficient production techniques, as well as accurate recording, the team’s car cost a reasonable $10,483.

In the business presentation event spearheaded by senior Ashley Ledlow and freshman Scott Nill, the team earned 21st place. While this was a respectable result, the team came to Michigan with high expectations, having won the event at the Virginia FSAE competition earlier this year.

Dynamic events reflect team’s progress

The dynamic events came next and gave some measurement of the team’s current progress in switching from a 600cc displacement engine to a smaller 450cc in the interests of reducing the weight of this year’s car. In acceleration, driver Justin Schneider found it difficult to match the outright pace of the larger displacement machines and tied for 64th place with several other teams.

In the skidpad event, Schneider along with freshman Trevor Bruns finished 48th. This event was extremely competitive, with the top 49 finishers being in the 5 second range.

The team scored 56th in autocross. Here, drivers Cody Mayer and Greg Greenwald found it difficult to match the laptimes of teams with more powerful equipment, but the result was impressive considering that the team still has much to learn about the new engine.

In design, the team tied with several other schools for 50th. Many judges were impressed with senior Cody Mayer’s innovative bellcrank steering system, a radical departure from the floor steer systems employed by all other teams this year.

Finally, Mayer and Greenwald scored an impressive 25th in the endurance event, ahead of perennial favorites Wisconsin, Cornell, and others. Only 37 teams finished this event, a testament to the durability and soundness of the team’s car design. Tied in with endurance was the fuel economy event, which was revised to carry greater points significance this year. Here Vanderbilt finished an astonishing 4th, using a mere .740 gallons of 93 octane fuel over the course of approximately 20 kilometers.

The Vanderbilt Motorsports team members who attended this competition were freshmen Trevor Bruns, Kyle Cappello, Jordan Croom, Richard Gromberg, and Scott Nill; sophomores Chris Cameron and Justin Schneider; junior Omar Saleem; and seniors Greg Greenwald, Ashley Ledlow, Cody Mayer, and Daniel Weinstein; as well as faculty advisor Phil Davis.