Review of Historical Formula SAE Rules
History of Formula SAE …
Ron Matthews, then an untenured Assistant Professor at the University of Texas, started the UT student branch of SAE in January of 1980. A month later, three of the new officers (Mike Best, Robert Edwards, and John Tellkamp) told him they had decided to enter SAE’s Mini Indy competition which was asphalt racing using a 5-hp small Briggs & Stratton engine); unfortunately the competition was no longer being organized. The four of them discussed their options and decided that they wanted to start a new asphalt racing competition with a new names (Formula SAE, coined by Professor Matthews) and new rules, the most important of which was that the teams could choose any 4-stroke engine including Wankels and Diesels but the intake was restricted to one inch (25.4 mm) in diameter. Engine modifications were not only allowed but encouraged. Professor Matthews called Bob Sechler, Manager of Collegiate Design Series competitions to ask whether SAE would support this new competition and Mr. Sechler enthusiastically gave his approval.
Ron Matthews remarked, “That first Formula SAE was small, but truly national in participation. Six schools said they would attend, but only four showed up: Stevens Institute (NJ), University of Tulsa (OK), University of Cincinnati (OH), and The University of Texas at Austin. The judges also reflected a national event, coming from General Motors, Ford, Southwest Research Institute, a variety of oil companies,—and, perhaps most notably, famous race car driver/engineer/owner Jim Hall, who flew in from the Indy 500 specifically to serve as a judge.
The four dynamic events team competed in were: 1) acceleration, 2) maneuverability, 3) endurance and 4) fuel economy which was run using a different race course than the maneuverability and endurance courses. For scoring purposes, equal weight was given to acceleration, maneuverability, and fuel economy with a double score for the endurance event. The University of Cincinnati won the fuel economy event with over 85 mpg and Stevens Institute won the other three dynamic events. The University of Texas won both static events: the Appearance award and the Engineering and Design Creativity award.
University of Texas hosted Formula SAE again during its second year, when it became an official SAE event. To entice more schools to compete, a second category was created for cars powered by Briggs & Stratton engines. It was hoped that schools would consider entering a modified Baja car to gain experience with the competition. A significant rules change was added for 1982. The first Formula SAE rules, patterned after Mini-Indy, did not require suspension, and thus several of the cars were simply large karts. From then on, Formula SAE would require four-wheel suspension. Additionally, the four dynamic events were condensed into three, with maneuverability and endurance combined into a single race: two heats of 50 laps (~450 m per lap) each, with a mandatory five minute driver change period after 25 laps, for a total of ~22.5km. Even with these changes the entire rules package for 1982 was only four pages. UT Austin won the Formula class while UT Arlington made an impressive debut with 1st and 2nd in the Briggs & Stratton class. The first international entry, the Universidad LaSalle (Mexico), was another highlight of 1982, entering a car in the B&S class.
The third Formula SAE competition was again hosted by University of Texas, Austin. Several rules changes were made; most importantly the Briggs & Stratton class was eliminated. Also, the allowable fuel tank size was increased from ½ gallon to 1 gallon. Additionally, although mirrors were not allowed during the first two years, they were allowed in 1983 if it could be shown to judges’ satisfaction that they could not become dislodged and fall off. Eleven vehicles from nine universities entered the competition. Although the separate Briggs & Stratton class was eliminated, two UT Arlington cars finished 1st and 3rd with modified 8-hp B&S engines, in large part due to fuel economy. The powertrain variety was as follows: a 65-cm3 Kawasaki, a 250-cm3 Honda, a 250-cm3 Kawasaki, a 450-cm3 Suzuki, a 600-cm3 Honda, two 11-hp Briggs & Stratton’s, and two 300-cm3 Sachs Wankels. This also marked the first year for an entry of a composite car; a monocoque Kevlar car from UT Austin.
The last competition hosted by UT Austin drew eight entries. Among the notable advances in Formula SAE technology was the first-ever, all-composite vehicle, entered by UT Austin. The variety of powertrains during this era was vast: Triumph 750-cm3 twin, 300-cm3 Sachs Wankel, 500-cm3 Yamaha, 400-cm3 Honda, 250-cm3 Honda, and a 600-cm3 Honda in the winning car from the University of Houston. It is interesting to note that the first four years saw consecutive improvements in acceleration times but increasingly poor fuel economy—it was obvious that the students were willing to sacrifice efficiency for performance! The rules for 1984 noted that, “Because this is an engineering design competition and not a test of driver skill, a 2-second-penalty will be assessed every time a tire is lifted off the ground during a turn.” Although all teams used pump gasoline, diesel, methanol, and ethanol were all legal fuels.
After nurturing the event for four years, The University of Texas at Austin turned it over to their colleagues/rivals across the state in Arlington. Professor Bob Woods, University of Texas at Arlington initiated a major rules rewrite, and the competition scoring was revised to include the static events as a portion of the overall awards using a 1000 point scale. The scoring system mimicked the schedule refined for Mini Baja over the years.
Perhaps the biggest change was the introduction of the cost report. In 1984 the rules simply stated that “The total project cost, excluding student labor, must not exceed $2000.” Now, for the first time, students were faced with submitting a report for the manufacturing costs of 1000 units. The maximum accepted value was $4500 per unit. New rules for 1985 also included the addition of the engine displacement cap at 610 cm3 and a reduction in the intake restriction to 23 mm. This was also the first year of organized SCCA participation with 20+ SCCA workers from the Texas Region handling flagging and scoring.
There were 15 cars from 13 school, including the first entry from Canada (Ecole Polytechnic, Montreal). For the first time, there were two entries with forced induction, UT Austin with a student designed and fabricated supercharger on a 300cc Sachs Wankel and Marquette running a turbocharged 550cc Kawasaki. UT Arlington entered two cars and took first and third places overall, with West Virginia University in second.
For the first time, Formula SAE moved out of Texas. Lawrence Institute of Technology (now known as Lawrence Technological University) hosted the event on its Southfield, MI campus. This Texas-Michigan alternation would last through 1990. Moving to Michigan brought the event into the backyards of the Big Three and increased visibility to the auto industry immeasurably. Each of the Big Three automakers and many suppliers donated money to offset the expenses of running the 1986 competition. Event organizer, Wayne Brehob noted in his event write-up that the split between air and water-cooled engines was roughly 50:50. Four of the 15 cars used forced induction: two superchargers, two turbochargers. The University of Texas at Arlington won its third championship in a close battle with the rookie entry from the University of Maryland. It was a very rewarding win, as 1986 marked the start of prize money being awarded. Volkswagen of America sponsored a $1000 award to the overall first place team.
Skid pad performance reached a milestone with the first cars to pull in excess of 1.0 g: The University of Texas at Arlington (1.09), and Cornell (1.04). Another milestone was the first appearance of fuel injection with the University of Maryland and UT Arlington entries. It was obvious that both of these teams had worked out any bugs prior to the competition as they finished first and second overall. The choice of powertrains was evenly split between the 600-cm3 Kawasaki Ninja and the 500-cm3 Honda Hurricane with each having about 40% of the field. This year also saw a double increase in registrations as 35 teams registered however 32 competed.
The big news for 1988 was the introduction of an official methanol fuel (M85) class. The U.S. Department of Energy, through the Argonne Laboratory, sponsored additional awards for best methanol fuel conversion, best methanol fuel economy, as well as best overall methanol placement. Now, with a strong financial incentive, teams began pursuing the methanol fuel option for their race engines.
The University of Maryland won $2500 in prize money for its M85 efforts in 1988. And there was no sophomore slump from Cornell; as the team did their homework over the year and won its first Formula SAE championship.
The 1989 Formula SAE rules were the first to specify that all vehicle entries be two years old or less to enhance fairness to schools that had never entered the competition previously and to ensure that each team of students experiences all aspects of the design process. Also, Wankel engines were no longer allowed.
The 103°F Texas sun was rough on cars, drivers, and spectators at the hottest event to date. A record 36 cars from 31 schools competed though 45 teams registered. Event chairman Ed Bass noted, “The 1989 competition was the first to be jointly hosted by an SAE Section (South Texas) and a university (The University of Texas at San Antonio).” It was also the first time the host school did not compete—was that Southern hospitality, or evidence that the only thing more time consuming than building a car is organizing the event? The San Antonio community embraced the event, with the Mayor signing a proclamation of “Formula SAE Weekend.”
The Kawasaki 600-cm3 Ninja engine was the powertrain of choice, with almost 50% of the field and three of the top four overall finishers —including the winners from UT Arlington—using it. New awards for 1989 included Safety Design, won by Cal State Northridge, and the Rookie of the Year award, won by Western Washington University. Rules changes for 1989 included the elimination of rotary engines. In the event summary report, concern was expressed about the “large number of entries” which resulted in a “shortage of time in most events.”
Although it missed out on the big prize, the Cornell “sucker” car was the star of 1990. The Cornell students took a page from history and reinvented Jim Hall’s 1970 Chaparral 2J CanAm car. It featured powered ground effects and the resultant downforce was sufficient to pull a record 1.32 g on the skid pad. Similar to many sanctioning bodies, the SAE rules committee subsequently banned powered ground effects. UT Arlington’s fifth Formula SAE championship was the first to be won by a turbocharged car.
General Motors, inspired by the great success of its GM SAE Sunrayce competition, deserves credit for moving Formula SAE from a relatively small university event to a major automotive industry happening. Students competing in the 1991 Formula SAE competition were exposed to top-level GM corporate support of the event. The kickoff included opening remarks from then-GM President Lloyd Ruess. Bob Stempel, then GM Chairman, was seen throughout the event as well. The static events were held in the GM Design dome, while the dynamic events took place at the Milford Proving Grounds. Every student competing no doubt remembers the endurance event on “Black Lake” as being the ultimate parking lot.
This also marked the year where first significant use of wings on Formula SAE cars were seen. The University of Michigan and the University of Missouri- Rolla both ran very large wings mounted midship above the driver. Although both cars were extremely fast in the dynamic events, not everyone in attendance felt the benefits outweighed the penalties. And, as with most advances in racing, concern for speed and safety led to restrictions on wing size and placement in subsequent years.
The overall winner was Virginia Tech. Todd Bowland, the VT captain, has since carved a special place in Formula SAE history by going directly from Formula SAE to the CART IndyCar series. Chip Ganassi Racing had offered a special award of a weekend with the team to the captain of the winning team. Todd impressed the professional team enough to secure full-time employment. Todd Bowland now is Director of Engineering for Joe Gibbs racing (as of January 2015).
After the success of the 1991 event, GM was left in a bit of a quandary. They had raised the level of the event to the point at which a return to a university parking lot was no longer desirable. Luckily, Ford had been having great success hiring students with SAE design competition experience, and agreed to host the 1992 event. A team of recent grads working at Ford acted as the staging committee with the events being held at various Ford facilities in Dearborn. Ford brought in Grand Prix greats Jackie Stewart and Bob Bondurant to help with driver education. Cornell had its second win, using a turbocharged Honda CBR600 engine. This engine would account for 40-50% of the field within three years.
After GM and Ford, the natural choice for Host Company was Chrysler. Chrysler’s magnificent new Auburn Hills Technical Center was the site, and Chrysler provided the students with numerous opportunities to interface with its technical staff. Chrysler Vice President Francois Castaing and a team of Chrysler engineers played host, while featured guests included racing legend Carroll Shelby and racer/driving instructor Terry Earwood.The only problem for the organizers was the temperamental Michigan weather, as part of Saturday’s schedule was rain delayed. The only problem for most of the teams was the car from Cornell, which won its second straight championship.
After having rotated through each of the Big Three, a major decision for 1994 was needed. Would the automakers continue this rotation? What would be the best scenario for the students? In the spirit of USCAR, and the many consortium efforts of the Big Three, a Formula SAE consortium was created for 1994. The consortium would be staffed by two representatives from each of the automakers with one representative from the SAE Educational Relations Division staff. The Pontiac Silverdome was chosen as a central neutral site, and Coventry Consulting was retained for event management. The overall win went to the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor.
With the teams returning to the same site for a second year, 1995 had a familiar feel for many people. The growth continued with 84 entries and 71 actual cars at the event. After missing out on the top spot for the past four years, UT Arlington finally added its sixth win, and did it with a significant difference—a smaller engine. The winning car used a 400-cm3 Honda engine against the typical 600s. UT Arlington’s logic was that, given the intake restriction, it could achieve almost the same power as a 600 while picking up significant advantages in fuel economy, weight, and cost over their rivals.
Head design judge Carroll Smith commented that it was not just a few teams making significant improvements—the entire field was increasingly competitive. The dynamic numbers back up this observation: the winning skid-pad time in 1989 would not have made the top 25 in 1995. Among new specialty awards for 1995 was the Vehicle Recycling Partnership Award for best use of recycled materials/design for recyclability—won by the University of Washington.
The continued use of the Pontiac Silverdome as a site, and Coventry Consulting to assist with event management, made this the smoothest-run event to date. To put the growth of the event into perspective, it should be noted that over 300 engineers acted as judges and volunteers during the three-day event. The 1996 competition drew a record 99 entries from which 76 cars made it to the competition. The large volume of cars was such that Friday’s events were quite hectic due to a morning rain delay. Saturday’s endurance runs also extended beyond the normal operating hours. It was noted that things were much easier in the days when more of the cars broke down early in the event!
A notable detail change was having the design judging finals take place after the endurance race. The five finalists were the Ecole de Technologie Superieure (ETS), Cornell University, Lehigh University, Georgia Tech, and The University of Texas at Arlington. Carroll Smith, along with Alec Purdy, Roman Slobodynskj, Ken Sperry, and Steve Lyman, spent about two hours carefully examining and comparing the cream of the crop. In addition to what they observed statically, they had notes from having watched two days of dynamic track events. Once the numbers were crunched and the five were ranked, Carroll did a walk around of each car, starting with fifth place. He reviewed the relative merits of the five cars, noting that the level of competition was such that any one of these cars would have clearly won the previous year. In the end, the team from ETS was awarded the perfect 150 design score, with UTA one point behind.
The more things changed, the more things stayed the same. While 1997 saw the first European entry at Formula SAE, the top three finishers could be labeled as “the usual suspects”. For the fifth year in a row, Cornell University, The University of Texas at Arlington, and the Rochester Institute of Technology each finished in the top ten - impressive consistency. What has made these three schools so dominant are the same factors that make any race team or car company successful – an excellent balance of teamwork, engineering talent, leadership, preparation, testing, financial resources, and facilities.
The rookies from across the pond, The University of Leeds, did a credible job. The fear among some teams was that with the UK being the formula car center of the universe, Leeds would have some type of an unfair advantage. Their performance went a long way towards showing that engineering students everywhere have the same challenges - balancing project work with classwork, raising the funds and convincing their school administration of the project worthiness. The UK team also had the issue of air freighting their car to the US. Their success (i.e. competing strongly) has resulted in SAE receiving many more inquiries from other schools beyond North America. The idea of having an overseas competition had also been raised - Formula SAE has global appeal.
Word of Carroll Smith’s Sunday morning debrief grew from last year and many more students and faculty came prepared with video recorders and took copious amounts of notes. Carroll was almost embarrassed to note some of the nitpicky items that the top teams were being docked for - but this was a necessity as they were all superb - it was the details that determined the 1997 design winner from UT Arlington. The terms “knocked our socks off” and “that’s an idea that I’d be happy to steal” were mentioned more than once. An idea from the past (1991) was revived in 1997, with the winning team selecting their most valuable team member to receive a special honor. That honor was courtesy of Ford Motorsports and was a hosted weekend with Team Rahal, and Tom Gloy Racing at a CART Indycar/SCCA Trans-Am race weekend. Geoffrey Hausheer from Cornell spent his weekend at Road America, before moving onto his post college career.
While every FSAE event is the best one ever for those students involved, the longtime judges and volunteers share a similar view. Each year the competition features the "usual suspects", but the number of suspects continues to increase as more schools develop the ability to be consistently fast. The 1998 event saw Cornell once again triumph, this time besting arch rival UT Arlington by just under 40 points. It was a highly profitable year for Cornell as they won numerous monetary awards including overall champion. In addition to the cash award categories, Cornell won a three-day driving school for five team members in dynamic performance and two sets of tires in autocross for their best year ever. On top of all this, Cornell won the first-ever SAE Foundation Cup. Through the generosity of SAE members, this prestigious trophy was established to help recognize the World Champions of FSAE for their excellence in engineering design, teamwork, creativity, and project management. SAE Foundation Trustees Donald W. Ableson and Neil A. Schilke presented the Cup to Cornell at the Awards Banquet as 800 engineering students applauded their achievement.
Meanwhile Clemson won the rookie of the year award, and UTA and RIT continued their top ten streaks.
This year also saw a brand new competition - Formula Student, held in the UK and organized with IMeche. The inaugural event, co-sanctioned by SAE was a fantastic success. Vehicles from the University of Leeds, University of Birmingham, and University of Hertfordshire competed against three U.S. vehicles representing The University of Akron, Rochester Institute of Technology, and The University of Texas at Arlington. Conceptual designs were also entered by Brunel, Sheffield Hallam, Sheffield University, Somerset College of A&T, and the University of Central England. Despite intermittent showers and occasional heavy rain (proving that Formula SAE vehicles do run in the rain), over 400 people from industry and the media attended the event.
For regular attendees of Formula SAE, the 1999 win by The University of Akron should not have been a surprise. Since first entering the competition the school had become increasingly competitive and followed previous success in the Mini Baja® and Aero Design® competitions. Akron’s win was achieved through excellent on-track performance (1st in endurance, 2nd in acceleration, 3rd in the skid-pad, and 5th in autocross), a strong top-ten design, and competitive cost and presentation scores.
Basically, the Akron team didn’t give up points anywhere. The University of Akron also won the Value Engineering Award and was the top M-85 entry. They walked away with $6,000 in cash, a race-weekend for Andy Renko-the team MVP, a three-day driving school, two sets of Goodyear tires, and a set of KONI shocks!
The University of Leeds, RIT, and UTA placed 1-2-3 in design, but both Leeds and UTA DNF’d the endurance race knocking them out of the overall top-ten. Reliability was especially critical in 1999 as there was but a single endurance heat due to the always unpredictable Michigan weather. The competition is so tight that a single miscue can derail even the best of teams. RIT once again did everything almost perfect, picking up yet another overall runner-up finish. RIT made up for their disappointment by winning the Formula Student Competition two months later in Birmingham, England beating UTA, Akron, and Leeds in the process.
You don’t have to be a seasoned veteran to win the Formula SAE competition. Competing in only its second FSAE competition, Texas A&M University won its first title with an outstanding balance of engine power, vehicle handling and driver skill. The Aggies from College Station outpointed runners-up University of Wisconsin-Madison largely on the strength of their autocross and endurance runs. In 1999, Texas A&M won the William C. Mitchell Rookie Award and turned this achievement into something bigger and better one year later at the 2000 competition.
Rounding out the top five finishers were Cal Poly Pomona, University of Florida, and University of Leeds whose fifth place finish was the highest ever for a non-North American school. Two months later, Cal Poly Pomona improved their performance and won the Formula Student competition in the United Kingdom. They beat the University of Toronto, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Georgia Tech, Rochester Institute of Technology, Kettering University, Leeds and University of Birmingham, and a host of other teams from the UK and Europe.
Texas A&M continues a rich tradition of FSAE success by engineering schools from the Lone Star state. The University of Texas at El Paso won the inaugural “Mini-Indy” event in 1979, while the University of Texas at Austin took the top prize in 1982. Houston won in 1984, and one of the dominant schools in the history of the event is The University of Texas at Arlington, with six overall titles and four second place finishes in 22 years of competition. UTA was performing strongly this year until a mechanical glitch took them out of the endurance run, relegating them to a 15th place finish.
Wisconsin captured the cost analysis event, while Rochester Institute of Technology won the coveted design event. RIT and Worcester Polytechnic tied for best presentation honors, while Texas A&M swept the autocross and endurance events. Five-time FSAE™ champion Cornell University turned in the best acceleration times. Like UTA, Cornell’s strong performance was neutralized by a breakdown in the endurance event. Placing sixth through tenth in order were Brown University, University of Waterloo, University of Toronto, University of Pittsburgh, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
This year also saw a brand new competition - Formula SAE-A, held in Australia and organized with Society of Automotive Engineers - Australasia. The inaugural event, co-sanctioned by SAE was a great success.
Yes, Cornell won again after suffering through a two year drought. In 2000, they finished in an uncharacteristic 13th place and a respectable 3rd place in 1999. Cornell along with the University of Texas at Arlington has combined to dominate the 21-year old event. UTA finished 6th this year and last won in 1996. Cornell bested runner up University of Missouri-Columbia by a whopping 105 points - 904 to 799. Rounding out the top five finishers were Ohio State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison and Texas A&M University.
Cornell won top honors for best drivetrain, optimized design, best autocross performance, and best overall track performance in addition to a 3rd place award for engine management systems. With their win, Cornell takes the FSAE championship back to Ithaca for a sixth time. UTA has the most championships with seven, and no other schools have more than one win in the event’s 21-year history.
University of Missouri-Columbia had their best finish ever by besting 3rd place Ohio State University by 23 points. ETS (Quebec) and Waterloo (Ontario) were the highest finishing Canadian schools, and the University of Leeds finished the highest in the rankings among the four off-shore teams. After experiencing electrical problems prior to the acceleration run, Leeds slipped to 14th overall.
The bar keeps rising as the number of contenders grows. The 2001 competition featured cars from Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom as well as Canada and the U.S.
The top four cars in design for 2001 were all outstanding, and the following comments by Carroll Smith give proof of this:
The Waterloo team listened well to criticism from previous years and produced a very clean, well-integrated design. The standard of workmanship was excellent, and the car featured a stiff chassis, very good geometry and excellent ergonomics. It was a particularly attractive car and was a quantum leap forward for the team.
ETS can be counted on to produce a well-designed, beautifully made vehicle. They can also be counted on to produce a very different car each year. In 2001, they had uncharacteristically done a lot of testing (testing is difficult in Quebec Ð something to do with the snow) and, driven with typical brio, the car did very well dynamically.
RIT can also be counted upon to produce an excellent car. The end product of several generations of students, this car was quite probably the best integrated design that we have seen. Everything that needs to be on a racing car was there and there was nothing that didn’t need to be there. This car would have scored higher if it had been less similar to RIT’s previous outstanding entries.
Again it is no surprise that Ohio State produced an outstanding car. This one is particularly elegant - a simple, stiff and attractive composite chassis with effective geometry and a host of student designed, manufactured and developed electronics, including a very sophisticated gearshift system. Again, a neat and very well integrated design.
This year’s competition has set a new record with 140 teams registered to compete. Cornell University made its case for being a true Formula SAE dynasty-relatively speaking, by winning its seventh championship in the collegiate design event's 22-year history. The engineering students from Ithaca, NY easily outdistanced University of Wisconsin-Madison by 110 points overall to win the annual collegiate design competition for the second straight year at a chilly Pontiac Silverdome parking lot course.
The 2002 event saw a record 118 teams from eight countries on five continents travel to Pontiac for a chance to win the coveted SAE Foundation Cup. This year the Cup was officially named in honor of 2001 SAE President Neil Schilke, an ardent supporter of SAE and its educational programs. Appropriately, Schilke is a Cornell graduate, and his pride in the performance of his alma mater in Formula SAE was evident.
In addition to the SAE Foundation Cup, Cornell took home awards for top honors in best design, endurance, fuel economy, acceleration, and skid-pad performance, while finishing second to University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) in autocross.
Georgia Tech, winners of the July Formula Student event in the United Kingdom, took home third place, followed by University of Michigan, and University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Surprisingly, Saginaw Valley State edged out Virginia Tech for sixth place. University of Western Ontario had the best Canadian finish and their best ever at eighth, while Purdue University and Brown rounded out the top ten.
The University of Wollongong from Australia was the highest finishing school from outside North America, finishing 28th. The first-ever Aussie entrant got high marks from the judges for innovative design and presentations before a mechanical gremlin left the car unable to start midway through the grueling endurance run.
Both Ohio State University and UTA mounted strong performances before mechanical glitches dropped them out of the endurance event to finish 24th and 29th, respectively.
With a second trip to the Silverdome, the University of Wollongong from Australia claimed the title of overall winner. Competing with one of the quickest and most fuel efficient in the Endurance Event and first in the Design Event, the Wollongong car was an evolution of the team’s previous contender which earned them a compliment from the late Carroll Smith in 2002 when he called the car “the best first year car I have ever seen”.
In essence the 2003 car was a smaller, lighter version with a lower center of gravity and various refinements. Refinements included shedding 23 lbs. of weight, shortening the car by 400mm, improved access to front and rear coil over dampers and increased camber adjustment range, use of twin rear brakes unlike rivals who relied on a single brake, mounting their brake cylinders underneath the driver’s feet rather than ahead of them allowing a key move in shortening its pullrod suspended tubular frame chassis. It was certain that with those changes and new innovation that Carroll Smith would approve on Wollongong’s victory.
Also taking place at the 2003 FSAE competition was the break in the 66-second barrier record in Autocross by the University of Missouri-Columbia and University of Texas-Arlington wing car.
Kansas State University produced the ‘sidewinder’ which was a cross between a kart and a conventional FSAE car. A 400cc air-cooled, four-stroke Honda ATV power plant is narrow enough to make the sidewinder approach feasible. The driver has only to be offset a modest amount. Though the Kansas state sidewinder might have been far from perfect and in need of testing and development, it was a breath of fresh air to many volunteers.
Reclaiming the title of first place for the eighth time during the history of the competition, Cornell University came with their game faces on and ready to compete. The 2004 car looked quite different from its predecessors with a design that went beyond the boundaries of the normal multi-tubular frames for an advanced composite monocoque chassis. However, it was not the look that only impressed the design judges, but the turbo Honda engine that the students further developed based around its own in-house ECU, which had evolved a very powerful and useful unit.
Joining the ranks of Cornell impressing the design judges was the team from Lehigh University. After reading their design report, the judges anticipated looking at the car that had been weighed at 301 pounds. The team built this car using a lot of Kart technology keeping the design simple and the weight low. To create such a lightweight car, the Yamaha R6 engine used by so many teams was dropped in favor of a Yamaha 426, a single cylinder torque monster. This engine was chosen for its incredible low-end torque output as well as its lightweight, partially magnesium construction. Lehigh was the first American team to run a 426. The 2004 car generated a huge amount of interest; unfortunately the car suffered a crippling driveline failure in the sixth turn of the endurance race.
Cornell university took another overall victory in the annual Formula SAE competition at the Pontiac Silverdome; leaving quite a legacy for the team and title holder now for the most wins in the FSAE history.
The evolutionary Cornell car had more rear weight bias to improve traction. The response of the 480 pound car’s turbocharged four-cylinder Yamaha Y2F 600R engine had been significantly improved following the introduction of an alternative turbocharger installation. Most significantly, added was a fifth fuel injector injecting between 20% and 40% of the required gasoline/ethanol fuel into the charge air at the turbocharger.
Making the single cylinder advantage an almost but not quite was both Formula Student winners RMIT and FSAE regulars Tokyo Denki showing that on-track speed was possible with new generation 450cc motocross engines. Both teams set surprisingly fast laps (RMIT with the fastest of all) and their small cars were easy to follow. Fuel consumption was almost 30% better than the 600cc fours. Unfortunately both teams failed to finish endurance.
This year also saw two brand new international Formula SAE competitions started with SAE International’s assistance in Italy and Brazil; both events joining the Official Series.
At the completion of 2005, SAE decided the need for an additional competition in United States and announced that a second FSAE competition would be hosted in 2006 located on the west coast in California due to the increase of demand and popularity of the program. With registration opening at the same time as Formula SAE located in Michigan, SAE made the decision to limit teams to registering for one competition for one month ensuring all teams interested who have a chance at initial registration without missing the opportunity. The inaugural competition had 70 teams registered and took place at California International Speedway; Texas A&M University became the first winner overall of the second competition.
After years of the Formula SAE competitions seeing growth not only in the United States but internationally, SAE International recognized three more international competitions as part of the Official Series; Formula Student Japan, Formula Student Germany, and Formula Student Austria.
With numerous competitions starting all over the world; many non-sanctioned by SAE International or IMeche and not part of the Official Series SAE International asked organizers from Official Series to talk of the building of a Formula World Council to serve as a governing body for the Official Series. The first Formula World Council meeting took place in Germany at the 2010 Formula Student Germany competition.
Information Supplied By:
SAE Technical Paper 962509, written by Dean Case, and presented at the 1996 SAE Motorsports Engineering Conference.
History records of Professor Ron Matthews
History records of SAE International
**The history of Formula SAE should be considered a living document. If you have stories or photos you'd like to contribute, mail them to SAE Educational Relations, Formula SAE, 400 Commonwealth Drive, Warrendale, PA 15096-0001, or e-mail to email@example.com