It took many sleepless nights and thousands of hours, but Friday marked the unveiling of Northwestern Formula Racing Team’s new racecar.
The car debuted in the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center lobby just down the hall from last year’s model. Students and faculty could see both designs, ask questions and get explanations from some of the team members on hand for the event.
A team of about 40 students worked to complete the car, which will compete May 8-11 at the Michigan International Speedway in a variety of racing and design events. They will face 120 teams from schools around the country. Formula SAE refers to the rulebook that teams must adhere to, ensuring honesty and equal footing for all competitors.
Next week is the culmination of months of work for many, including project manager Shonali Ditz.
“We built this from the ground up, starting last summer,” the McCormick senior said.
This year, the team was able to make many more parts in-house, saving money and making the building process more personal. Members designed and welded the frame and designed the suspensions, engine tuning and wiring.
The improvements were due in large part to the increase in membership. Ditz said in her time on the team, numbers have grown from five to the current 40.
This year’s model weighs in at just under 400 pounds and produces 60 horsepower, according to Jacob Buser, McCormick junior and suspension lead for the team. The car handles best between 20 and 40 mph, he said, but could theoretically reach nearly 70 mph.
“Building the car is outside of anything we do in class. You’re in class, it’s all about the theory,” Buser said. “Formula SAE gives you that application, it allows you to experience a full, year-long project management cycle.”
As it grew nearer to race day, Ditz said the “super-involved members” put in close to 60 hours per week, which often included all-nighters and short naps on the couches in Ford.
While in Michigan, the team will face racing and design challenges. The design competition is the most prestigious, Ditz said, and is evaluated by judges with decades of industry experience.
“They’ll hop in the car, stomp on the breaks, get on their hands and knees, trying to find the weakest part, and they will,” she said. “You can’t get things by them… but they really respect the students knowing fully what went into it.”
Northwestern will be represented on the racetrack by four drivers, including McCormick freshman Alex Lee. Lee said part of his decision to enroll in McCormick was due to the Formula team at Northwestern.
“I have an immense passion for cars,” Lee said of his involvement as a driver. “It’s unreal, I can’t believe they are letting me do this.”
Twenty-four members of the team will compete in Michigan, while others will go to Canada for another competition later in the spring.
Despite the stress and hectic nature of race day, Buser summed up the fun of competition: “It’s a racecar – you’re driving something that can go up to 50, 60 miles an hour in something you and your friends built.”