Australian triumph in Formula SAE 2003

For the first time in the long history of America's annual Formula SAE student single-seater design competition, held over the weekend in the Silverdome in Pontiac, MI, the winning team was not entered by a US university. The event was won by a big margin by a team from the University of Wollongong in Australia. SAE International received no fewer than 125 entries for the 2003 competition

Australian triumph in Formula SAE 2003

The result is a boost to morale at the NSW university. In January, it suffered a tragedy when a commuter train, travelling between Sydney and Wollongong, was derailed at speed, causing multiple loss of life and serious injuries. Some of the passengers lost and injured were students travelling to Wollongong to enrol or register.

In second place was the University of Missouri Columbia, followed by Michigan State University. The best-placed European entry was that of Finland's Helsinki Polytechnic in 38th position.

Formula SAE, organised each year by SAE International, is a hugely well-supported competition for college student teams to conceive, design, fabricate and compete with small single-seaters. The restrictions on the car's frame and engine are limited so that the knowledge, creativity and imagination of the students are challenged. Four-cycle engines up to 610cc can be turbocharged or supercharged to add a new dimension to the challenge of engine design. The cars are built by team effort over a period of about one year and are taken to the annual competition for judging and comparison with racecars from universities and colleges throughout the world.

For the purpose of the competition, the students are to assume that a 'manufacturing firm' has asked them to produce a prototype racecar for evaluation as a production item. The intended sales market is the amateur weekend 'autocross' racer. Therefore, the car must have very high performance in terms of its acceleration, braking, and handling qualities. The car must be low in cost, easy to maintain, and reliable.

In addition, the car's marketability is enhanced by other factors such as aesthetics, comfort and the use of common parts. The 'manufacturing firm' is planning to produce four cars per day for a limited production run and the prototype vehicle should actually cost below $30,000. The challenge to the design team is to design and fabricate a prototype car that best meets these goals.

Each design is judged against other competing designs to determine the best overall car. The cars are judged in a series of static and dynamic events including static inspection and engineering design, solo performance trials, and high-performance track endurance.

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