Oregon State University’s Global Formula Racing (GFR) team took top honors with a total score of 876.6 at the 2014 Formula SAE Michigan competition, held May 14-17 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, MI. It is the team’s fourth first-place victory at the event in the past five years, previously claiming titles in 2010, 2011, and 2012.
GFR took first place in many of the dynamic events, including skid pad, autocross, and endurance. Trevor Takaro, an Oregon State University graduate student who is technical director for the winning racecar, attributes much of the success in these events to an abundance of seat time for the drivers.
“The skid pad we were particularly happy with because we’ve been second three or four times already, but we’ve never been able to win it,” he said. “The skid pad event is a really interesting challenge. With skid pad, you’re in the car, you start it, you’re off the line, you do two laps in each direction, and then you’re done. With each lap being in the 4.8-s range, your total run is incredibly short. So being able to be so comfortable with the car that you can drive out and immediately go as fast as you think you can, that’s a real challenge. So we work a lot on really smooth driver feedback and lots of driver training so that when a driver gives an input to the car, they get the output they’re expecting."
“In skid pad," Takaro continued, "you’re trying to do a constant lateral acceleration, but the track is never 100% flat and perfect, so it’s not constant, which means that the drivers have to be able to get through a lateral acceleration and then adjust as they go over the bump or whatever else on the track. There are two skid pads at Michigan and you have to run both. One of them was a little bit slower than the other one; it had a bump in it. It’s always an interesting challenge to figure out how do you reduce that affecting your performance.”
GFR was the only team in the top four to run a 450-cc engine, as opposed to a 600-cc engine. The decision to use a 450-cc engine was based on extensive simulation work and testing.
“You get some pretty interesting trade-offs between the 600s and the 450s,” Takaro said. “The 450 is lighter and makes less power than the 600, but the 450 is a little bit easier to package than the 600. One of the interesting downsides, though, is that the 450 engines wear out a lot faster than a 600 engines. The 600 would go longer, but it is somewhat a bigger, heavier engine. If you do have to remove it from the car, depending how you designed your car, it may be more difficult to physically get the engine out of the vehicle because it is a larger part of the car and it may be stressed as part of the chassis. So maybe your maintenance is less frequent but takes longer.”
Technical University of Munich finished second, and Universitat Stuttgart, winner of last year’s event, finished third. TU-Munich was runner-up in the autocross and endurance events.
Over the course of four days, the Formula SAE teams’ vehicles were judged in a series of static and dynamic events including: technical inspection, cost, presentation, and engineering design, solo performance trials, and high-performance track endurance runs. The events were scored to determine how well the car performs. In each event, the manufacturing firm had specified minimum acceptable performance levels that are reflected in the scoring equations.
More than 100 teams competed from countries around the world, including Austria, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and the U.S.