The University of Kansas Jayhawk Motorsports Team is putting the finishing touches on its yearlong project to design and build a formula-style racecar from scratch before its departure early Tuesday morning. The team will compete in the 2006 Society of Automotive Engineers Formula competition May 17 to 20 at the Ford Proving Grounds near Detroit.
The KU team has finished in the top 25 in five of the past seven years, and earned an impressive 12th place finish last year. The team is one of only two teams to complete every aspect of the event in the past five Formula SAE competitions.
The students most are studying mechanical engineering bring a devotion to the project that is rarely matched.
"There is a huge time commitment and an unbelievable amount of work to do when you design and build an advanced racing vehicle in well under a years time," said Logan Johnson, mechanical engineering senior and team captain. "Many people consider this to be a 9-5 job; others consider it to take more time than that."
At the competition, student teams and their cars will be evaluated in a series of nine static and dynamic events including high performance track endurance, acceleration, presentation, design, cost, and technical inspection. Student teams also are required to adhere to extensive safety regulations, submit thorough design information and make several technical presentations.
This year there are 140 registered teams in the international competition, but not all of them are expected to compete in every event.
"Some teams in the competition will bring several parts of their car that they broke during a few weeks of testing," said Johnson. "The KU car doesn't have very many breakdowns this is a testament to our design and workmanship that is further emphasized by the fact that we keep driving the car all through the summer nearly every weekend."
The Jayhawk Motorsports faculty adviser is pleased with the progress of this year's team.
"While the team is smaller this year than it has been in years past, the dedication and quality of work has been exceptional," said Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Robb Sorem, who also is associate dean for undergraduate studies in the KU School of engineering. "The seniors, along with some key volunteers, have really come together and designed a quality machine that can stand among the best in the nation."
Seniors in mechanical engineering have the option of taking part in the project as part of the capstone design series of courses in their major. Underclass students in mechanical engineering often volunteer to be a part of the team and are then better prepared for the class and the competition when they reach the senior level.
The 475-pound Jayhawk Motorsports car can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3 seconds flat, and has already reached speeds of 110 mph. The car holds a 4-cylinder 600cc Honda CBR F4i engine without internal modifications to ensure reliability. The carbon fiber body sits atop 20-inch tires on 13-inch rims. The project cost more than $35,000 to complete and benefited from a substantial in-kind donation for the carbon fiber body.
The team also plans to participate in the newly formed Formula SAE West competition June 14 to 17 at the California Speedway in Fontana, Calif. This will give the team yet another opportunity to compete against teams from five different continents.
Learn more about the team at
Learn more about the competition at
2006 JAYHAWK MOTORSPORTS TEAM
Team Captain: Logan Johnson
Suspension Team Captain: Ryan Mills
Suspension team members: David Hickey, Derek Cudney, Paul Rankin
Drive Train Captain: Pat Bramlett
Chassis Team Leader: Garrett Witthar
Engine Team Leader: Kyle Martens
Volunteer Leader: Lawrence Raitinger
Underclassmen volunteers: Erich Ohlde; Nick Roberts; Jared Anderson; Matt Hall; Chris Hedden; Stuart Hembree; Paul Garcia; Gretchen Christenson
Faculty Adviser: Associate Professor Robb Sorem, associate dean of engineering