Event Coverage: Formula SAE Lincoln
By David Zipf
Photos by David Zipf & Luisa Sawyer
Last year we showed you what goes into a basic Formula SAE car (courtesy of the University of Delaware). At the time, a number of readers asked why there was no coverage of the actual competitions. Well I had planned to do so, but unfortunately I had my head so buried under that car that I never actually got around to seeing most of the events. This year I made a point of going to as much as I could to try and cover some of what goes on.
Just remember, 66 cars showed up at SAE Lincoln this year, so if I missed out on any specific failures, miracles, etc. my apologies in advance. Not only was I trying to get coverage of the event, but I was also servicing my own school’s car.
This isn’t actually Lincoln, but it should give you an idea of how big an event we’re talking about here.
If you are unfamiliar with Formula SAE, the premise is simple: college teams spend all year designing and building a racecar from the ground up. They design the chassis, suspension, the drivetrain, and all of the driver controls. Pretty much everything you see, other than the engine, is designed and built from scratch. The goal is to design, build, and sell your car as the vehicle for a new SCCA spec series. Teamwork, planning, and professional level engineering must come together to create the perfect racecar. Twice a year, teams meet and pit their cars against one another in eight competitions to see who built the best car. The categories are: Design, Cost, Business Presentation, Acceleration, Skidpad, Autocross, Endurance, and Fuel Economy.
This was the first year that SAE held a competition in Lincoln, Nebraska. Much to the chagrin of many students, the second SAE competition of the year was moved out of Auto Club Speedway (in sunny So Cal) to Lincoln airport. This is the site of the SCCA National Autocross championship, so they have the experience and man power to handle 60+ college geeks and their race cars. This is also a much more central location to the country, lowering shipping and travel costs for the East Coast teams. Other than a snafu on opening day (where the long line of trailers and cars coming into the track blocked the access road to the airport) and some shortage of pit space, the people in Lincoln set up a great event. This year’s inaugural Formula SAE Lincoln was held from June 20th to 23rd.
One big tent, a hanger, and an airstrip with some porta-potties is what we raced on. Not quite ACS, but we made it work.
On Wednesday, the teams all rolled in and unpacked their cars and set up their pits. Some teams scrambled to finish cars that weren’t 100% complete before being shipped out. Other teams had to repair cars that were damaged in transit. Stevens Institute of Technology had to deal with a punctured radiator out of the gate! They were able to repair their radiator and compete in nearly all of the events later in the week. Tech inspections also began on Wednesday. This created a whole new scramble for many teams: fixing the tech failures before the dynamic events opened the next day. Lincoln also gave teams a taste of something they had never seen in California…rain.
Cars surrounded by a swarm of people are a common sight at any SAE competition.