Collegiality in competition

May 8, 2012

Kettering’s SAE Formula racing team is hosting the Esslingen University Formula team leading up to the SAE Collegiate Design Series competition May 9 – 12.

Kettering University’s SAE Motorsports Formula Team has extended the hand of friendship and collegiality to one of its competitors in the SAE International Collegiate Design Series at the Michigan International Speedway, in Brooklyn, Mich., May 9 to 12.

The Kettering and Esslingen teamsThe Kettering team has hosted the team from Rennstall Esslingen, Germany, in their garage since April 27. The German team had their competition vehicles and spare parts shipped to the University in time to finalize preparations for the competition.

Matt and Joe working on the vehicleAdditionally, Kettering’s team will also host the Metropolia Motorsport Helsinki, Finland, team and a team from the University of South Florida between the competition at Michigan International Speedway and the follow-up "Toronto Shootout" May 24-27.

“This is a great experience for the younger team members to learn from the top performing teams in the world,” said Joseph Palazzolo, team leader for Kettering SAE Motorsports-Formula. “I wanted our team to carry some of that knowledge forward in future competitions,” he added.

With the usual pre-competition time crunch, Palazzolo said the teams have not had much opportunity to socialize. “Within the next week, as the cars are prepped and ready, there will be a little more time to take a breather during the beginning day or two of competition,” he said.

In addition to collegiality on an international level, Kettering’s team also has internal collegiality with nine A-Section and seven B-Section students on the team, which means almost half the team travels back to campus during their work term on evenings and weekends to work on the vehicle. Three of the Kettering team members are German foreign exchange students from Esslingen University studying for a term at Kettering.

Palazzolo said the team is hopeful that changes in their vehicle this year, including switching from a Honda 450 TRX to a Yamaha WR450F engine and a carbon fiber under-tray, will help them at the competition.  The design feature of the carbon fiber under-tray has improved the vehicle chassis rigidity by 30 percent. The tray is attached to the steel frame chassis using a special adhesive, according to Palazzolo.

Team member grindingThe change in engines was made possible by a “generous donation of two motorcycles from Yamaha which positively influenced our engine budget and allowed the team to direct those funds to other systems in need,” said Palazzolo. The donation of the motorcycles enabled the team to tear down and use not only the engines, but also other components that would be beneficial to use on the race car, an important feature for the team in the Business Plan part of the competition.

The Formula SAE ® Series competitions challenge teams of university undergraduate and graduate students to conceive, design, fabricate and compete with small, formula style, autocross vehicles. Teams typically spend eight to 12 months designing, building, testing and preparing their vehicles before a competition. The competitions themselves give teams the chance to demonstrate and prove both their creation and their engineering skills in comparison to teams from other universities around the world.

Over the course of three days, the vehicles are judged in a series of static and dynamic events including: technical inspection, cost, presentation, and engineering design, solo performance trials, and high performance track endurance. The events are scored to determine how well the car performs. In each event, the manufacturing firm has specified minimum acceptable performance levels that are reflected in the scoring equations.

In addition to Kettering and Esslingen, 118 other vehicles from colleges and universities throughout the world will compete in the May 10 to 12 event, including teams from Venezuela, South Korea, United Kingdom, Singapore, Finland, Austria and Canada.  Michigan teams include Ferris State University, Kettering University, Michigan State University, Oakland University, University of Michigan, University of Michigan Dearborn, Lawrence Tech and Western Michigan University.

Read more on this year’s Formula SAE Competition:
For more information about the 2012 Formula SAE Michigan competition, including a full schedule of events, visit .