Grizzlies Racing combines practical engineering with racing action

courtesy of Kurisu Fambro
The GRX7 during testing.

Dean Vaglia, Distributor

Many people dream of driving a race car, but these students are doing it for real. Grizzlies Racing is Oakland University’s team in the Formula SAE competition. Based out of the Engineering Center, Grizzlies Racing takes the student-designed “GRX7” race car to FSAE events across the country while providing team members with practical engineering experience.

Along with certification tests, there are four different events: Skid Pad, a race designed to test the car’s handling of G-forces; Acceleration, a test of the car’s speed; and Autocross, a time-based race on a slalom course, all test racers’ skills. But it is the Endurance event that stands out the most. It’s the ultimate test of reliability. The Endurance Test has teams drive cars at full throttle for half an hour. The event is so intense that only 20 percent of the cars entered finish.

“It is supposed to simulate a year’s worth of driving,” Grizzlies Racing member Thomas Weiss said.

FSAE is not just about the getting the fastest time, however. It helps to be fast, but reliability will get teams more points.

According to Grizzlies Racing member Adam Delbeke, preparations for the next competition begin as soon as the current competition ends. From the day the team gets back to Oakland, they look over what they liked and disliked from the car used and what can be changed to help performance. Once changes have been made to the car, testing begins.

“The day we get the car done we’re down in [parking lot] P35 shaking the car down,” Grizzlies Racing member Gavin McPherson said. “We set up test tracks, time trials and drivers get a feel for the car and test the new suspension.”

Grizzlies Racing competes at FSAE Lincoln in Lincoln, Neb. and at FSAE Michigan at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich. The Michigan event is the most important of the two, attracting teams from United States and around the world.

FSAE Michigan also attracts high level engineering companies like SpaceX and NASCAR teams, as one member of an Austrian team found out.

“One of their lead engineers for suspension, he got called by a NASCAR team and they paid for him to… fly to their facility and interview,” Weiss said. “He didn’t even ask for the job. That was just based off of his presentation at the competition.”

To those who are interested in joining Grizzlies Racing, but are afraid that they can only be engineers to get in, you’re in luck. The team is open to anyone who is willing to lend a hand, regardless of major.

“We have business majors and are trying to recruit more on the team. Advertising majors, marketing majors, anyone, we’ll gladly take them” Delbeke said.

The next event for Grizzlies Racing will be FSAE Michigan at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich. from May 9-12 and will be open to the public.