Crimson racing looks to take success to the next level

Crimson racing looks to take success to the next level
Zach Froehlich / Alabama Crimson White

To promote STEM studies to local high school students, the Formula SAE design team will host a demonstration of Honda’s Indy car. Photo courtesy of the Crimson Racing Team.

The University’s Formula SAE team is a student-run organization housed by the engineering department in which students collaborate to design, build and race formula-style cars against other colleges at international competitions.

When Cole Frederick joined the team as a freshman, he never imagined he would have enough confidence to predict that they could finish in the top 25 at one of the most prestigious SAE racing competitions in the world.

At the time Frederick signed up for Crimson Racing, the wheels of the team were seemingly falling off. Funding was low, membership was down, and the team’s finishes at the Michigan competition were disheartening. In 2012, Frederick’s freshman year, the team finished 102 out of 120.

“Our goal this year is to be top 25,” Frederick said as he discussed the expectations he has for Alabama’s Formula SAE team, Crimson Racing, at this year’s major competition at Michigan International Speedway, which takes place from May 10-13.

The tide began shift during Frederick’s sophomore year, his first serving as team captain. Since then, the team’s finishes have steadily improved, yearly funds have increased, and the organizations has been getting about around 5-10 new members each year. A team that finished 102 in 2012 finished 42 last-year. Funding has increased so greatly that the team was able to construct an entire new formula car this year, and is considering entering the Lincoln SAE competition along with the Michigan SAE competition.

As soon as Frederick took over, he emphasized recruiting new members, especially freshman who he could build the team around. His recruiting efforts have paid off. The team now has nearly 30 members, most of which are majoring in various engineering disciplines. Those members are divided into four sub-groups who each manage specific responsibilities on the team. The powertrain team is essentially responsible for the engine of the car, the chassis team manages the framework of the car, the electronics team handles the electrical components of the car and the business team oversees fundraising and community outreach projects such as E-Day.

Aaron Suttle, a master’s candidate and the leader of the powertrain team, has been a member of the University’s Crimson Racing team since he was a sophomore and, like Frederick, he is optimistic about the team’s chances at the Michigan SAE competition.

“For this team of leaders it’s been like a Cinderella story because we came into a team that had nothing and was terrible performance wise. To have a chance at being top 30 or top 25 this year, I never thought that we’d achieve this while I was at the University so I think it shows how good of a team I’ve had the opportunity to work with,” Suttle said.

While Frederick and Suttle are confident about the team around them, they are also excited about the improvements that have been made to their car as well.

“From my perspective, what I’m trying to improve this year is our straight-line acceleration,” Suttle said. “Losing a lot of weight, having more powerful engines and somewhat better suspension will help that.”

Frederick noted that they have transitioned from using fiberglass to using carbon fiber for constructing many parts of the car. A change that he hopes will decrease weight and increase speed.

At the Michigan SAE competition, the team and its car will be judged on more than the car’s performance on the speedway. In fact, the car’s actual performance only accounts for about half of the team’s overall score. The other half of the team’s score will be comprised of grades given for a business presentation, in which they must sell their car to a fictitious company, a design review and a cost report.

This will be Frederick and Suttle’s last year serving as leaders of Crimson Racing, as they are both planning on pursuing graduate degrees. However, they do not think that there will be any drop-off, even though team leadership is changing hands.

“The freshman that we recruited have stuck with it and they know how to run the team now,” Frederick said. “They’re just like us. The team will keep improving in the near future.”

To help raise money for their trip to the Michigan SAE competition, Crimson Racing has partnered with Chipotle to host a fundraising event this Thursday. Fifty percent of the proceeds from the orders will go directly to the team.

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