As some of you may know, this past weekend the Formula SAE student design competition was held at the Michigan International Speedway. As part of this competition, over a year students design, build, and test a prototype open-wheeled racecar. We then take it to competitions that happen around the world and compete in a variety of static and dynamic events.

Some of these events are design presentation, cost, marketing, skidpad, acceleration, autocross and the grueling 22km endurance event. In the endurance event, attrition is high, with only 40 teams out of the total 120 completing it. The scores from the events are added up, and the team that scored the most over all of these events is declared the winner.

The cars themselves are open-wheeled, open-cockpit,and limited to 610 cc. The engines also have to run a restrictor that's less than 2 cm to keep these ~300-500 pound cars at sane speeds. The rules are fairly open, with the biggest restriction that the cars have to be safe, pass a tech inspection, and not have all 4 wheels in a straight line.

As an experience, competing in FSAE is hard to beat. You get to design, manufacture, build, and finally watch a car that you built with your team. It takes a lot of late nights, maybe a few sacrificed grade points, but you learn more than you ever would in class. If your school has a team, I highly suggest that you find a way to participate in the engineering or business side, because racecar.

Advertisement

Pictures:

My apologies in advance, as I'm no photographer and I have a P&S POS.

Over the past years, the theme has been enormous wings, to get usable downforce at the sub-100 kph speeds the competition runs at.

Advertisement

Many of the teams have a good sense of humour about it, too.

Advertisement

In detail, these cars are quite impressive. Kansas U, for example, had a composite monocoque with a stressed 4-cyl motorcycle engine/gearbox.

Advertisement

There was also some innovative use of materials that weren't composites. This team made hollow 3d-printed titanium uprights. Other teams had hollow cast uprights as well.

Advertisement

I wonder how they got this through tech?

Advertisement

Some teams seemed better-funded, like this Austrian team sponsored by Red Bull. They too keep their sense of humour about them, with their slogan "There are no kangaroos in Austria."

Advertisement

Overall the level was quite high, with teams like Stuttgart from Germany showing that a ground-effect sidepod wing on a well-developed car is also a good way to be competitive.

Advertisement

...with a nice tidy rear end to match.

Advertisement

Aside from teams from around Canada and the States, there were some teams from South Korea and even Estonia, like this beautiful car from Talinn Technical University.

Advertisement

Videos:

All of these are taken through a fence, with only commercial-grade and not industrial grade shaky-cam.

Advertisement

With the displacement limit, the teams generally run motorcycle engines, either singles or inline 4 cylinders. It makes a good variety of engine notes, along with the different intake and exhaust configurations and tuning that the teams do.

Sometimes, they can sound a lot louder than they should. Cars have to be less than 110 dB, but this car's muffler fell off. Since endurance is the only time cars are on the track together, it can also have some tense moments, like when a car spun out in front of another on its last lap.

To add entertainment value, during endurance it started to rain when the fastest teams were on track. Some of the lower teams (like my team) were hoping it would slow them enough to increase our score, which is based on the fastest elapsed time for the 22km.

And because it's probably more exciting in person than in video clips, I took a 5-minute clip of endurance to show some of the variety in the sights and sounds offered by the top teams.