Formula SAE teaches college students engineering skills through motorsports

Global Formula Racing

The world’s next Formula One or IndyCar champion isn’t going to be found honing their racing skills in college anytime soon. 

Unlike other sports, the road to becoming a professional race car driver doesn’t involve being recruited to drive for a collegiate team.

But for those pursuing a career in motorsports engineering, the road to designing and building the racing machines of tomorrow may begin in their university’s Formula SAE program.

Formula SAE is a design competition sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers where students use their knowledge and experience to design and build formula-style race cars.

Since the inaugural competition in 1979, Formula SAE has blossomed into an international affair, with over 600 teams representing over 20 countries.

During competitions, points are earned in a series of off-track “static” events, such as preparing a detailed report and business presentation, and on-track “dynamic” events, such as efficiency, endurance and acceleration tests. The team with the most points at the end of the competition is declared the winner.

One of the most successful teams in Formula SAE is Global Formula Racing, an international collaboration between Oregon State University’s Beaver Racing Team and the BA Racing Team of German state university Baden-Württemberg-Ravensburg (DHBW).

The collaboration began in 2009, with both institutions sharing physical and intellectual resources to create racing vehicles. 

Design, manufacturing and testing occurs simultaneously at both schools, with the team competing in events in both the United States and Europe

“After the first year of that partnership, what we’ve decided to do is to build an electric car over in Europe and a combustion-based car here at OSU,” team captain Nathan Rust said. “We compete with the American car at one American competition and then we ship the car over to Germany and we spend some time with them and then we both compete at multiple competitions in Europe.

“Last year was kind of a big year for us. We introduced our first ever autonomous vehicle, so we actually went to one of our competitions with three competing cars. We’ve chosen to retire our combustion car and now we’re just going to be building electric and driverless vehicles from here on out.”

The unique partnership between both institutions was the first of its kind in Formula SAE and has helped them establish themselves as one of the most victorious teams in the world. 

Since their inaugural season in 2010, GFR has placed first in 16 competitions and received three No. 1 world rankings in 2010, 2014 and 2015.

“As far as our track record, GFR is super successful,” Rust said. “I’d like to think we’re the best formula team in the United States, and we’re probably in the top 3-5 in the world right now.”

According to Rust, OSU’s team has approximately 100 active participants, including both enrolled students who are required to complete it for their senior capstone project, as well as students studying other majors who also want to participate. 

Many of the car’s parts are designed and constructed solely by the students themselves, though many of the more intricate parts are constructed with the assistance of 3D printing, thanks in part to the generosity of a local HP plant in the team’s U.S. hometown of Corvallis.

“We aren’t able to do any of this without our sponsors,” Rust said. “We have places that will anodize parts for us or places that can do machine stuff for us. We are not really anything without the help of our sponsors and the help of the university and their support. Our car is only getting more expensive as we get more advanced so it’s super helpful to get more people and companies on board.”

While constructing a car can be a long, tedious and expensive process, Rust said that both he and his fellow students agree that the finished project is always worth the months of work required to build a Formula SAE car.

Rust also said that he’s confident the skills that he’s acquired by participating in the team will help him land a future career in the motorsports or aerospace industries. 

“I value this higher than any internship I could have done, any job I could have done over the past two years.” Rust said. “The experience I’ve gained from this is going to be able to actually get me the job that I want, not the job that I’ll settle for.

“The amount of work and the fundamentals of engineering that you get and just the super in-depth experiences that you gain from these programs makes people better engineers. I’m very confident in my ability to get a job now purely based off of the stuff I have here.

“I think it’s much more attractive on a resume than the stuff that I have from my internships or from the classes that I’ve taken or even the work experience that I had after I graduated with my Bachelor’s (degree). I think this is what’s going to get me the job that I want.”

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Kyle Larson wins third consecutive High Limit Sprint race at Eagle Raceway, Rico Abreu second again

Larson High Limit Eagle
High Limit Racing - Twitter

It took four attempts for Kyle Larson to win his first High Limit Sprint Car Series race in the series he co-owns with brother-in-law Brad Sweet, but once he found victory lane, he has been undefeated with his win at Eagle (Nebraska) Raceway. For the second week, Abreu led early only to fall prey to Larson.

The win was Larson’s third straight victory and the fifth consecutive top-five, giving him a perfect sweep of the season after finishing 10th in last year’s inaugural race at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana.

Larson started third behind Abreu and Brent Marks but was embroiled in a fierce battle with Anthony Macri for third during the first dozen laps. Larson slipped by Macri in traffic until a red flag waved for a flip by Lachlan McHugh.

Meanwhile at the front of the pack, Marks retook the lead from Abreu on Lap 18. Larson followed one lap later and then caution waved again. Tyler Courtney lost power and fell to 24th after starting eighth.

Marks scooted away on the restart but tragedy struck in Lap 26. Leading the race, Marks hit a pothole in Turn 1, bicycled and then flipped, handing the lead to Larson.

Abreu caught Larson again during the final laps and in a reprise of their battle at Tri-City Speedway, the two threw sliders at one another for several laps until Larson built some separation and ran away to the checkers.

“I didn’t feel like my pace in [Turns] 1 & 2 slowed down a ton,” Larson said from victory lane. “I missed it once there and then I saw his nose in 3 & 4. I didn’t know if he nailed the bottom that well behind me and I think he might have slid me in the next corner, so he was definitely on the top.

“I was nervous to move up there because my car was really pogoing up in the entry of 1. I got up just in time, made a few mistakes and he threw a couple more sliders at me but he was just a little too far back and I was able to squirt around him. Then I really had to commit to hitting my marks – back my effort down a bit to avoid mistakes.”

After leading early, Abreu fell back as far as sixth, but faith in his car kept hope alive.

“I just needed to do a few things a few laps before I did and fix some angles, then my car got a whole lot better,” Abreu said. “I’m thankful for this team; they do an amazing job. They don’t give up on me. I know my car is going to be there right at the end of these races, so it’s just the discipline of being patient.”

For Abreu, it was his third near-miss this season. He was leading at Lakeside in the 2023 opener until a tire went flat in the closing laps and he lost the lead to Larson late in the Tri-City Speedway race. Abreu has finished sixth or better in his last three High Limit races with each result being progressively better until his pair of runner-up results.

Third-place finisher Scelzi was the hard charger, advancing from 17th.

“I had a very specific plan; don’t go near [the hole in Turn 1],” Scelzi said. “It worked out. No one wanted to start on the top. I think I gained a couple of rows there on the choose cone and ran the middle, which seemed to be better than right around the bottom.”

Michael “Buddy” Kofoid in fourth and Macri rounded out the top five.

World of Outlaws star and former NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne was one of 41 entrants, but he was not among the 26 starters. He failed to advance to the Main after finishing eighth in the B Main and seventh in his heat.

Feature Results

A Feature (40 Laps): 1. 57-Kyle Larson[4]; 2. 24-Rico Abreu[1]; 3. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[17]; 4. 71-Michael Kofoid[5]; 5. 39M-Anthony Macri[3]; 6. 9-Chase Randall[9]; 7. 26-Zeb Wise[14]; 8. 1X-Jake Bubak[15]; 9. 8-Aaron Reutzel[10]; 10. 14D-Corey Day[18]; 11. 11-Cory Eliason[12]; 12. 5T-Ryan Timms[11]; 13. 88-Austin McCarl[13]; 14. 21H-Brady Bacon[22]; 15. 48-Danny Dietrich[16]; 16. 7S-Robbie Price[19]; 17. 21-Brian Brown[23]; 18. 22-Riley Goodno[26]; 19. 52-Blake Hahn[25]; 20. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr[21]; 21. 3J-Dusty Zomer[6]; 22. 14-Cole Macedo[7]; 23. 19-Brent Marks[2]; 24. 7BC-Tyler Courtney[8]; 25. 25-Lachlan McHugh[20]; 26. 53-Jack Dover[24]

2023 High Limit Sprint Car Series

Race 1: Giovanni Scelzi wins at Lakeside Speedway
Race2: Anthony Macri wins at 34 Raceway
Race 3: Kyle Larson wins at Wayne County Speedway
Race 4: Kyle Larson wins at Tri-City Speedway