The Saginaw Valley State University Cardinal Formula Racing team earned the fifth-best finish in the accomplished program's history at its most recent international competition.
The team finished in 26th place out of 110 colleges and universities from around the world at the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers Collegiate Design Series. The event was hosted at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan from May 14-16.
“I feel pretty good about our performance,” said Brooks Byam, Cardinal Formula Racing's adviser since 1998 and an SVSU professor of mechanical engineering. “I'm just thrilled to be able to work with these students.”
Byam said this year's vehicle might have finished in the event's top 10 if not for a mechanical failure during the endurance portion of the competition. He said the vehicle was on pace to score more than 200 points in the endurance challenge until an oil line broke loose, spraying oil all over. The team instead earned 18 points in the category.
“It was about a 10-cent part,” Byam said of the oil line that never proved an issue during the team's year worth of preparation. “That's racing. That one little thing can make all the difference.”
SVSU recorded the highest overall finish among institutions without a graduate program in engineering, thanks to strong showings in all other categories, placing in the top 15 in acceleration, autocross, cost, presentation, and skid pad. The 2015 overall champion was Graz University of Technology from Austria.
The only Cardinal Formula Racing teams to place higher in the annual competition managed a sixth place finish in 2002, eighth in 2005, 14th in 2008 and 18th in 2010. Last year, the group finished in 36th place.
Byam said the experience of preparing an Indy-style race car for competition is invaluable to students.
“They're much more self-reliant,” he said. “They're becoming much better engineers.”
Byam - 2013 winner of the Carroll Smith Mentor's Cup from the Society of Automotive Engineers, the top honor given to faculty who advise college formula racing programs - said Cardinal Formula Racing's 20-student roster showed dedication and a solid work ethic this year.
That could be a good sign for the 2016 team because all but three students from this year's crew are expected to return.
Zack Haveraneck of Saginaw; Samuel Dantuma of Pinconning and Henry Shin of Saginaw are graduating.
“The rest are already digging into it,” Byam said. “I was going to tell them to take a few weeks off, but they want to meet on Wednesday to discuss goals for next year.”