(Video by Daniel “Dan” Fisher)
The first time Maxwell Dorion, 26, joined the University of South Florida Racing team, he said his motivation was to work on cars and be a team player.
A native from Seminole, Florida, Dorion said his first meeting with the Society of Automotive Engineers in the Fall 2016 semester was a life adjustment after transferring from St. Petersburg College with an associate’s degree.
“When I went to one of the club meetings, I was surprised at first how busy the team was in building Formula-style race cars,” Dorion said. “Eventually, I became use to the atmosphere after being assigned as the lead suspension designer because I worked as an auto mechanic and I enjoy working on vehicle dynamics.”
Upon his debut with the Bulls motor racing team at the 2017 Formula South Invitational event at Kennesaw State in Georgia, the mechanical engineering major had the opportunity to drive the SAE team’s F2016 racecar because of Dorion’s background hobby in autocross racing. Before the FSAE event, Dorion said he attended his first practice session with the F2016 on campus as a means to sharpen his driving skills for dynamic events.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpALQLqsZbA (Video from the official USF SAE YouTube channel)
“I did some practice laps in one of the student parking lots with the team’s racecar,” Dorion said. “The idea for having me test the car was to come to grips with its speed and handling, which I had a lot of fun behind the wheel.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lujrh6mH4A (Video from the officials USF SAE YouTube channel)
Over time, Dorion’s hard work and team player skills contributed to helping USF Racing co-drive to a 3rd place finish during the dynamic events at the Formula South Invitational.
Picture of USF Racing’s F2015 car at Formula SAE Lincoln, which placed 6th overall after completing both static and dynamic events in 2015. (Screenshot by Dan Fisher from the 2016 Formula SAE Michigan guide book)
USF Racing was among the eight Formula SAE teams that competed at Formula South Invitational, which the team has been building and testing Formula-style race cars every year since 2005. With Formula SAE Michigan 2017 being next on the team’s schedule, USF Racing expects continuing growth within their organization after a 47th place finish overall out of 115 FSAE teams in last year’s FSAE Michigan.
USF Racing shop located on campus in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Dan Fisher)
According to the team’s online website, USF Racing is part of the Society of Automotive Engineers, which is a student run club that collectively designs, fabricates, and races Formula-style racecars located beside USF Parking and Transportation Services in the ENR building. The club’s website says it comprises both undergraduate and graduate students from all majors, which handles a monetary budget and a multitude of company partnerships which allows members to build skills in marketing, finance, and project management.
USF Racing front door entrance to the team’s office and workshop. (Photo by Dan Fisher)
USF Racing originally began as an off-road team called “BAJA SAE” in 1999, where “students are tasked to design and build an off-road vehicle that will survive the severe punishment of rough terrain and in the East competition—water.” In 2005, the team switched to building single-seater Formula cars in Formula SAE to challenge their car’s performance and efficiency.
The idea of Formula SAE, according to SAE International, is to portray teams as a “fictional” manufacturing companies assigned to build a small prototype “Formula-style race car” to be evaluated and determined for the potential of becoming a production car for the industry market. The rules of FSAE also said that each vehicle is judged “by experts from motorsports, automotive, aerospace and supplier industries on student design, cost and sales presentations.”
Zachary Evling, president and team captain of USF Racing, says the club embraces teamwork and diversity while educating members hands-on skills that are not taught in the classroom. He said the goal for FSAE is for team members to partake in hands-on projects involving the planning and manufacturing of machine products to introduce to consumers in the industrial market.
“It is a program designed to teach students hands-on skills that can help prepare them for an industrial career,” Evling said. “Although we are a team that focuses on the building of Formula-style race cars because it is fun and cool to do, USF Racing wants its members to gain a skill set for building projects and have an appreciation for innovation.”
When Evling first joined USF Racing in the Fall of 2015, he said working day and night on building FSAE racecars was also an acclimation.
After only two weeks of contemplation, the California native motivated himself to be a USF Racing member because of his interest in automobiles and motor racing. But most importantly, learning and improving his skill set in technical design, he said, was paramount in pursuing a future career in industrial engineering.
A Race Against Time: Finalizing The F2016
Digital rough sketch of the F2016’s design, which was used as a template in the hands-on manufacturing of the car for competition. (Screenshot by Dan Fisher from Andrew Nelson’s office computer on the Safe Works program)
In the Spring of 2016, Evling advanced himself to the position of Vice President of USF Racing, including the lead aerodynamics and suspension designer for the team’s F2016 car.
With a 6th place result at Formula SAE Lincoln and a 66th overall finish at Formula SAE Michigan in the 2015, members of USF Racing were committed to build off of their success in both static and dynamic events. Though the building of the F2016 was no easy task for Evling and his USF Racing members.
“Spring 2016 was a challenge for all of our members in manufacturing the F2016 car,” Evling said. “It was also challenging for me because I was the vice president of the team while serving as the lead aero and suspension designer, which was difficult in managing my time at school.”
Andrew Nelson, USF Racing’s public relations director, said it was a matter of time management among club members to finalize the F2016 for its unveiling ceremony.
“There was intense, sleepless nights at the shop,” Nelson said. “There was even a lack of sleep from the members because among the tasks was putting the vinyls on the car for its unveiling ceremony.”
Nelson recalls the team’s overwhelming rush of completing their open-wheel car, with each member working their fingers to the bone.
In Nelson’s newsletter from April 2016, he wrote that despite the deadline for the car’s unveiling and Formula SAE Michigan fast approaching, USF Racing were successful in submitting their completed “600 page cost report” for the Michigan static event.
USF Racing’s F2016 car from the unveiling ceremony at the Galleria building at USF. (Image courtesy by Roger Cox from USFRacing.com)
After working around the clock day and night, members of USF Racing completed the F2016 car for its unveiling ceremony. According to USF Racing’s June 2016 news release , the F2016 not only got a new paint scheme, the team improved their engine and aerodynamic concept for the car.
(Screenshot by Dan Fisher from the 2016 Formula SAE Michigan guide book)
“Also new this year was the turbo we mounted to our single cylinder Suzuki LTR 450 engine,” Nelson said in the June edition. “It creates about 60 horsepower and 38 ft/lbs of torque, a gain of eight horsepower and 5ft/lbs from last year.”
Nelson also wrote that the team revised their “aerodynamic package” for the F2016 to increase its efficiency, creating “60 lbs of downforce at 30 miles per hour with fewer wing elements on the rear wing.”
The Road To Michigan
Once the F2016’s unveiling drew its final curtain, the “1,200 plus trip” to Michigan then became the second act for USF Racing.
(Screenshot by Dan Fisher from the 2016 Formula SAE Michigan guidebook)
Nelson said in his newsletter that the Michigan trip to Camp Mcgregor took about over “1,200” miles from Tampa. However, while the team traveled in two groups so that Team Captain, Michael Ramos, and his group can spend time extracting enough data from testing their F2016 racecar before driving off to Michigan.
After two days of nonstop driving, and driver swapping for eight to 10 hours straight, the team arrived at Camp Mcgregor, each team member started setting up camp before heading to the 2-mile oval to register their car for Michigan FSAE.
Crunch Time, Go Forth F2016!
(Screenshot by Dan Fisher from the 2016 Formula SAE Michigan guidebook)
Thursday was the first day of FSAE competition, where 115 teams from across the United States registered their cars and inspected them before the static events.
“The point of inspection was to verify that every team’s car is safe to drive and meets competition regulations,” Evling said. “The static events were scheduled to where teams have to move from station to station, each of our members cover the cost report presentation, the design team covers the design presentation while our other teammates conduct the business presentation. It was a busy day then because we had to keep moving our car over to every station to present it to the judges, which made it a bit stressful to keep our focus in presenting our year-long project.”
Nelson said FSAE teams present their cars to the judges while covering the design features of their product in their cost report, including the amount of money and time spent during the manufacturing process.
“During the static events, teams present a binder on what they have done in building their car, such as the car’s aero and suspension modifications,” Nelson said. “After the presentation, the judges then ask questions about the work that was done to the car.”
Nelson said the benefit of participating in the Design, Business Presentations, and Cost events is so that teams gain expert advice on how to improve the quality of their cars while learning how team members can apply the lessons from the static events in their professional endeavors.
According to the official Formula SAE Michigan 2016 results, USF Racing averaged a 39th place finish out of 115 teams in the Design event, including 92nd in Presentation and 32nd in Cost.
Once Friday came, USF Racing and the 115 other teams took their cars out on the back straightaway of MIS to begin Formula SAE Michigan’s dynamic events.
Among the dynamic events was autocross. As stated in the 2017-2018 Formula SAE rules, the idea of autocross is to evaluate the car’s maneuverability and handling qualities on
a tight course without the hindrance of competing cars. FSAE also says autocross courses combine the performance features of acceleration, braking, and cornering into one event, and the average speeds of the FSAE car must produce about 40 km/hr (25 mph) to 48 km/hr (30 mph).
Here is a sample video of the Global Formula Racing from Oregon State University attempting some hot laps on the autocross layout at Formula SAE Michigan in 2016.
Nelson’s June 2016 newsletter documented the events from the autocross session, which proved to be a day of adversity for the Florida based race team.
“During our Autocross event, I was the first person to see Gary (De La Rosa) grind to a halt on the hairpin on the farthest point of the track,” Nelson said in the newsletter. “Through the fence, I yelled out, ‘What’s wrong Gary!’. Gary yelled back, ‘The front wing failed,’ so I ran all the way back to the team standing by the pit cart to tell them what happened.”
Nelson said quick repairs to the front wing were made with only 20 minutes left in the session.
“The lower canards of the car’s front wing were dragging on the ground pretty bad, which scratched the carbon fiber as if someone took a belt sander to it,” Nelson said, looking back on the Michigan event. “Because of the rain, it gave our team extended time to make more repairs to the front wing for Gary to get back on the track to earn points for autocross.”
Saturday morning’s Endurance event proved to be a cold and rainy experience, said Nelson. This dynamic event, Nelson said, judges each car’s performance on a fix time duration based on fuel economy and engine reliability.
The pouring of rain and hail continued to distract the competition from the task at hand, leaving USF Racing members and other FSAE teams frustrated and confused of the track conditions.
“The rain kept pouring down on Gary’s run in only his first 10 laps, which made the session difficult to run on slick tires,” Nelson said.
After running on wet track conditions, which were dominated by a downpour of rain and hail, USF Racing averaged 97.9 points in the Endurance session, including an efficiency score of 69.5 points. Overall, FSAE officials gave USF Racing a combined result of 486.2 points from the static and dynamic events, averaging 47th out of 115 teams, as compared to the team’s 66th place result in the 2015 event.
Nelson said for the first time in the team’s history, USF Racing completed all dynamic events at FSAE Michigan, despite endeavoring a cold and rainy endurance session.
“After competition, we went back to Camp McGregor to rest before leaving for Tampa the next day,” Nelson said.
Nelson said in his newsletter that USF Racing focused their efforts on testing the F2016 during the summer to extract more data in the attempt to maximize the car’s performance. In addition, the team began accepting new members and drivers to be trained for FSAE competition.
Learning & Improving As A Team
USF Racing members gather for a team photo next to the F2017 during the unveiling ceremony at USF’s Galleria building on campus. (Photo by Dan Fisher)
Now the president of USF Racing, Evling says he is determined to contribute his leadership in educating new members every year about automotive design.
“It is an invaluable experience for a lot of people to be involved in SAE, whether their field of study is mechanical engineering or industrial engineering,” Evling said. “The program is open to all majors, which is a great place to gain hands-on experience. Whether a student is an advertising major or a marketing major, SAE provides members leadership and teamwork building opportunities in their career pursuits.”
With the covers of USF Racing’s F2017 unwrapped from the unveiling ceremony on Sunday, April 23, new driver recruits and the F2016 resting at the team’s shop, members look ahead with high expectations to grow their FSAE team and beyond.
Evling said during the ceremony at the Galleria building at USF’s Research and Innovation Park, Formula SAE require teams to construct a car for competition every year based on performance and efficiency. He said by having the design leads present the F2017 during the unveiling ceremony, the audience would experience how the SAE static events are organized for Formula SAE Michigan.
“Our team members have to present the car in front of a few judges and compete against other teams in their presentations,” Evling said, behind the lectern. ”So we basically have to sell the fact that this is a product that can be produced and manufactured at a profitable price, and profitable for some venture capitalist. Our expectation for Michigan is that we hope to do well in both the static events and dynamic events.”
As for Dorion, being a committed team player and learner of mechanical engineering is a foundation he hopes to build for his life goals. He said despite the team devoting day and night finalizing their car for the 2017 Formula SAE Michigan season, the team continues to strive for progress and organizational growth.
“We are not a big club on campus, but we strive to have people join in learning the industrial design of projects such as cars,” Dorion said. “It’s a fun and interesting experience for me, and I continue to enjoy the experience of automotive design quite a bit.”