SwoopD3 came to Michigan International Speedway ready to put the screaming osprey on its nose across the finish line first.
But a broken wing put the University of North Florida’s Osprey Racing team in 82nd place this month at the annual Formula SAE competition, one slot down from last year’s single-seat race car series for college engineering teams across the world.
This was Osprey Racing’s third attack on the college competition after it came in 81st out of 125 teams last year, 20 ahead of its 2012 premiere. But part of its differential broke during the competition after the car was trailered to the huge track for its first race, Osprey Racing vice president and student Ju-John Huo said.
“The differential mounting rod end broke and the other bent, and we think it was mainly because of forces enacted on it when the clutch was engaged,” Huo said. “ … We pushed our brand-new car and I believe this year we learned a lot, and next year we will do better.”
The Society of Automotive Engineers competition started in 1979 to challenge student engineers to design, build and drive a race car that can withstand technical inspection, racing and a 13-mile endurance run. Former student Justin Tussey started Osprey Racing five years ago so the University of North Florida’s engineering students could compete in it.
The first car was built with $25,000 in donations, a used Honda motorcycle engine and help from local racers and machine shops. Students modified it into last year’s 60-pound-lighter, 65-horsepower Swoopdie2 with another $9,000 in donations.
This year’s race car cost about $36,000, raised via donations or help from sponsors in parts or construction. Osprey Racing went up against 107 other student teams from as far away as Dubai and Stuttgart. Six Florida schools also competed against them — University of Florida (ninth place), University of South Florida (51st), Florida Atlantic University (76th), Florida Institute of Technology (80th) and Florida International University (82nd).
Osprey’s new car was built by the 17-member team, 10 of them seniors. It is more aerodynamic, with a more reclined seat, digital dashboard and pneumatic shifting. It was 16 pounds heavier, with about 75-horsepower from a newer rebuilt Honda engine.
The differential issue happened halfway through the endurance laps and the car was eliminated.
Brand new meant “hiccups,” Huo said. But the car becomes the “necessary stepping stone” for next year’s team to be more competitive, he said.
The school also placed 24th in the business presentation, with the video at youtube.com/watch?v=CVcAdOKLHM0.
Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549