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May 27, 2020

After pandemic cancels signature event, SVSU Cardinal Formula Racing revs up for 2021 ... and maybe 2022

For more than two decades, Saginaw Valley State University’s Cardinal Formula Racing team built a reputation for engineering some of the fastest vehicles in the international college competition circuit. Even as the competition’s talent pool deepened, the team’s Indy-style vehicles blew past peers from multiple hemispheres. After a global pandemic spoiled the hard work of the last 12 months for the team, members say the next 12 months will present a new kind of challenge that will reveal as much about their character as their car. 
 
The results, they predict, will demonstrate the team’s world-class determination and persevering spirit. 
 
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) officials canceled the annual Collegiate Design Series less than two months before the May competition at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. The competition has served as a capstone to a year’s worth of engineering work by Cardinal Formula Racing and more than 100 competitors from higher education institutions across the world. 
 
“The entire team was very saddened by the cancellation,” said Edward Tomczyk, co-captain of the 2019-20 Cardinal Formula Racing team. “It was going to be a big moment for our young team and a test of improvement.” 
 
Instead, the group already has plans to rally for next season which, in many ways, has already begun. 
 
When the FSAE competition comes and goes in May, the SVSU students who expect to participate in the contest for the following year immediately meet to begin planning. The new group typically spends the next 12 months designing and engineering a new vehicle, although sometimes concepts from earlier models are utilized. 
 
“We refined last year’s design for the 2020 car and fixed small things as necessary,” said Tomczyk, a Grand Blanc native who will join the team for a fourth and final year. 
 
The mechanical engineering major expects the new team will use the vehicle intended for the FSAE competition this month. Cardinal Formula Racing will refine the vehicle – known as “The 113 Car” – utilizing the additional 12 months of preparation time to optimize the car’s capabilities. 
 
Tomczyk will remain a captain for a team that will only lose two of its 16 members to graduation. 
 
“With a running and competition-ready car sitting in the shop, our team has been sitting on our hands, just itching for the chance to continue working toward our next race,” he said. 
 
Brooks Byam, the team’s adviser and an SVSU professor of mechanical engineering, said the team may also explore an additional objective for the next 12 months. 
 
“There may be an opportunity to get a car ahead by starting the 2022 car,” he said. “That plan is budget dependent.” 
 
Since Byam started as the team’s adviser in 1998, Cardinal Formula Racing has built an outstanding reputation in the FSAE college circuit despite the competition’s expansion to include teams from international institutions. Byam was the 2013 recipient 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. 
 
For five consecutive years, SVSU has recorded the highest finish among exclusively undergraduate programs in the FSAE Collegiate Design Series. 
 
Cardinal Formula Racing has placed in the top 20 five times overall: 6th place in 2002, 8th in 2005, 14th in 2008 and 18th in 2010. The team placed 19th last year. 
 
The Collegiate Design Series competition measures its participating vehicle in a number of categories including acceleration, endurance, autocross, cost, presentation, and skid pad. SVSU traditional excels in designing vehicles built for speed. Twice SVSU built the fastest college race car in the world, winning the acceleration category in 2008 and 2014.