Formula Race Team Wins in California

RIT racecar outperforms 58 teams to successfully defend last year’s title

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Ashley Shoum

RIT Formula driver Taylor Hattori reacts to winning the endurance event. He and his teammates took first place overall in the SAE Formula West competition for the second year in a row.

The Formula Race Team at Rochester Institute of Technology was the top finisher at this year’s California SAE Collegiate Design Series event June 16-19 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. RIT took the championship against 58 teams from around the United States, across Canada and from India, Venezuela, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Japan, Brazil and Sweden.

With points and top event placements, the RIT Formula team took first place overall followed by universities from Oklahoma, Washington state and Alberta, Canada. RIT, Oklahoma and Washington also received SAE Spirit of Excellence Awards, given to the event’s top three overall finishers.

“It is still unbelievable to think that, as a team, we have been able to successfully defend our title after last year's victory. Winning the competition last year was a feat the team had never been able to accomplish before—a first place finish on American soil. Now, to think that we have been able to overcome all of the challenges and obstacles in our way yet one more time is simply amazing,” says Timothy Monahan, team member of four years.

The team sent a crew out to California the weekend before the competition to do some final testing and tuning of the racecar, said Matt Smith, project manager, RIT Formula SAE Racing Team. “The group did an amazing amount of work to have the car in race condition by Wednesday, the first day of the event. Twenty-one members of the team were present and we were supported by many alumni and families in California,” he adds.

RIT took second place in both the design and presentation events as well as third in both acceleration and cost events. Additionally, the team placed fifth in autocross and sixth in the skid pad category.

In the endurance portion of the competition, RIT managed to hold onto first after fuel system troubles began about two-thirds of the way through the race. “It was a great piece of driving from both Aleksey Kovtun and Taylor Hattori to get us first in the endurance event,” says Smith. “Not only were the driver’s fast, but they also knew how to preserve the car to get us across the finish line.”

John Scanlon, the RIT Formula team engine group leader, agreed. “We had a fuel leak internal to our fuel cell which caused a fuel starvation issues in the second half of our endurance run,” he explains. “Taylor used excellent judgment, having already known that the Oregon State car had dropped from endurance; he decided to take it easy in case the car was actually running out of fuel.”

RIT had the best time in the event despite the fuel leak. Only 19 cars completed the demanding, 22-lap race.

“I am very proud to be a member of the RIT Formula SAE Racing Team as we have continually made our mark in the collegiate racing world one year after another,” says team member Kursten O’Neill. “Our collaborative talent and dedication amazes me as we move forward each racing season ”