Albin Alex snugged up his harness, then pushed SwoopD6’s Honda motorcycle engine hard as the college senior whipped off some acceleration runs up and down the University of North Florida’s parking lot 17 Sunday afternoon.
The drivers’ blue driving suits were visible inside the racecar’s naked tube-frame as it sped past student construction manager Hunter Barkentin and his smartphone’s stopwatch. The car will have to work flawlessly when they compete Thursday and Friday against 129 colleges from across the world in the 38th annual Formula SAE competition at Michigan International Speedway.
“I am very nervous. But at the same time, after seeing the car compete, I am confident,” Barkentin said as the car, soon to receive its body, circled him.
Albin, who redesigned SwoopD6’s seat, said Osprey Racing is the “perfect fit” for an engineering student like him.
“I am a race fan and I like Formula 1,” he said after his stint, pleased at how his redesigned seat was working. “… It’s all fun. I love working on cars. I love driving cars. I’d like to go into racing, maybe join a Formula One team, the dream job.”
The SAE 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. This will be Osprey Racing’s sixth time at the competition, which SAE International says is designed to provide “real-world challenges” for college engineering students.
Along with designing the car, each school team must deliver a comprehensive business case to convince a fictional manufacturing firm that theirs is the best design. The team and car also compete in acceleration, braking and handling tests. The car’s durability and fuel economy also are measured during a 22-kilometer endurance run.
Former student Justin Tussey started Osprey Racing in 2010 so University of North Florida engineering students could compete. The first car was designed in school, then built with $25,000 in donations and a used motorcycle engine. The latest SwoopD, built on a new frame according to rules, weighs 466 pounds with a newer 85-horsepower Honda CBR600RR engine, more upright seat for driver comfort and redesigned fuel tank.
Last year Osprey Racing finished 102nd out of 115 schools, behind the University of Florida’s ninth place, University of Central Florida’s 31st and Florida Atlantic University’s 33rd. Germany’s Universitat Stuttgart was first. In 2015 Osprey Racing finished 60th, better than its 82nd place in 2014. They plan to do “better than last year,” Barkentin said.
“We are looking pretty strong,” he said. “… This is the most testing we have ever been able to do throughout the year or before competition.”
The team, with assistant professor John Nuszkowski, made the 2,000-mile trip to the event after paying a $2,250 registration fee. The team has received help from veteran racecar driver Tommy Riggins, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance and a $2,000 donation from local car collector John Campion to buy two newer engines, Barkentin said.
Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549