An unyielding desire to excel by the students on Saginaw Valley State University's Cardinal Formula Racing rocketed the team to a top 15 against the top college and university race teams from around the world.
“It blows me away, the amount of work this team puts in,” said Brooks Byam, an SVSU professor of mechanical engineering and the team's adviser since 1998. “They earned this.”
SVSU’s Indy-style race car placed 15th overall at the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) Collegiate Design Series May 8-11 at Michigan International Speedway. They finished ahead of institutions such as Michigan Tech, Penn State and Purdue.
For the fifth consecutive year, the program placed highest among teams that exclusively featured undergraduate students.
Over the last two decades, increased participation from teams with graduate students as well as institutions outside the U.S. have gradually raised the level of competition at the Collegiate Design Series, making a high finish for SVSU more difficult with each passing year, Byam said.
But a determined core of students - and a history of success - helped boost Cardinal Formula Racing to its best performance in more than a decade. Before last weekend, the program's top four finishes of all-time were 6th place in 2002, 8th in 2005, 14th in 2008 and 18th in 2010.
This year's team finished 15th overall both because of the students' strong work ethic and Cardinal Formula Racing's legacy of success, Byam said.
“We've been developing and carrying over a checklist of items – for over a decade now – that helps our students prepare for some of the goofy things that have happened to our teams over the years,” he said.
The failure of a 10-cent oil line part considerably dropped Cardinal Formula Racing's overall placement in the 2015 Collegiate Design Series. A blown backup engine that nearly cost the team dearly on the eve of the 2018 competition. Experiences such as these became entries in the checklist – now nearly four pages in length – that students utilize to ensure they are better prepared to overcome the challenges faced by their predecessors.
While the checklist helped avoid potential setbacks last weekend, this year's team likely will add some items for future generations of Cardinal Formula Racing team members, said Jared Greshow, a mechanical engineering major and team captain. One month before the Collegiate Design series, the car experienced engine problems. Then, about one week before the competition, a vital sprocket broke.
“For some teams, these problems would have been reason to call it quits,” Greshow said. “We were prepared for these problems and had solutions ready to go when they happened.”
The Bay City native said his teammates were stubborn... in a positive way.
“Nothing could have happened which would have made us quit,” he said. “This year couldn't have gone better.”
This year's team was sponsored by a number of companies and organizations including the Alro Steel, the SVSU chapter of the American Foundry Society, DeWitts Radiator, Fullerton Tool Co., General Machine Service Inc., Means Industries, Merrill Technologies Group, MolyKote, Nexteer Automotive, and PF Markey. Other supporters include R&M Machine Tool, Rowleys Tires and Automotive Services, Teamtech Motorsports, TNT EDM Inc., Saginaw Welding Supply Co., and the William Parth Endowment for Cardinal Formula Racing.
For more information on SVSU's Cardinal Formula Racing program, please visit www.svsu.edu/cardinalformularacing/.