Formula racing team revs up for competition

Sammy Caiola

It’s 8 p.m. and while classes are over in Ford Motor Engineering Center, jigsaws are buzzing and the smell of sawdust is in the air. Students in welding helmets start work on what’s bound to be a late night as they craft their individual parts of a fully functional racecar.

Northwestern’s Formula Racing Teamis revving up for Formula SAE Michigan, an international competition for over 120 college formula teams. From May 11 to May 14, the team will travel to Brooklyn, Mich., to show off a high-speed car that has been in the making for the past two years, said Joshua Jund, a McCormick junior and composites lead.

The competition is comprised of static events such as a judgment of the design and a business presentation as well as dynamic events like acceleration, skidpad, autocross and endurance. Jund said he is excited about competing in two months. This will be the first time since 2008 that NU’s team has competed.

“I’m a car person,” Jund said. “When things get hectic I take a step back and think about how amazing this is. We’re all building our own racecar from scratch. It’s something most people couldn’t dream of doing.”

The car, which is expected to reach speeds of 75 mph, is slated to be finished by April 23, chief engineer Ben Kolodner said. The team will celebrate that night by doing “hot laps” in the Sports Pavilion and Aquatic Center parking lot. There will be an official unveil of the car May 6 on Ford Lawn.

Kolodner, a fifth-year McCormick student, said their car’s bread-and-butter functionality is what will set it apart from big-time competitors.

“It’s reliable and it’s simple,” Kolodner said. “A lot of teams go really crazy, but we’re just sticking to the basics and that sets us apart.”

The team was formed in 2007 by a handful of engineering students with passion for the automobile industry, Jund said. Over the next two and a half years, the team built a car that competed in the 2008 competition but was disqualified for moving too slowly in the last event.

By 2009, all but one of the founding members had graduated and the team had to start on both a new car and a new team, Jund said. After vigorous recruiting and training, the team has grown to 40 members and is ready to race in two months.

Brendon Divincenzo, a fifth-year McCormick student who worked on the first car in 2008, said this year’s version has much better chances.

“We’re light-years ahead of the old car,” said Divincenzo, project manager of the current team. “Most teams have a sustainable program and more resources. We’re coming from almost nothing.”

The car is sponsored by more than 20 companies, including Ford Motor Companyand Alcoa. NOS Energy Drink will provide driving gear and funding in exchange for their logo on the exterior of the car.

NOS has also provided the team with an unlimited supply of energy drinks, and because several formula team members said they sometimes stay in the work area until 6 a.m., this kind of boost might be necessary.

The club works in five teams: engine, suspension, tires, composites and external relations. The teams design their part of the car independently and have separate managers, but the car’s success relies on all aspects working in conjunction.

“This program is designed to create the best engineers in their field,” Divincenzo said. “The kids that do this are sought after, and they know a lot. The fact that people get into engineering for the sake of engineering, that’s what’s worth it to me.”

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