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Jayhawk Motorsports races to top spot in International Formula Car Contest

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

LAWRENCE — The race car team from the University of Kansas School of Engineering claimed the top overall spot at Formula SAE Lincoln, which was June 19-21 in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The Jayhawk Motorsports team was propelled to first place overall against a field of more than 70 competitors by earning first in the design and autocross categories and second place in acceleration and endurance. KU finished more than 50 points ahead of the second-place team.

“It’s really exciting and a true honor,” said Jill Langlas, Jayhawk Motorsports team leader and 2014 mechanical engineering graduate from Wheaton, Illinois. “We came in well-prepared and had a little luck in that everything held together and we didn’t get surprised by any breakdowns. It’s a thrill to come out on top against so many good teams.”

The competition requires students to design, build, then race a Formula-style race car during the course of the school year. The project is one of the capstone design courses in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and is taught by Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Robb Sorem, who also serves as faculty adviser for the team of students and student volunteers.

With temperatures in the mid-90s, heat and humidity played a key factor in the competition. The final event at Formula SAE Lincoln is the endurance competition – a 13.6 mile, 14-lap test of all aspects of the car. After a strong finish in several other events, KU had the advantage of being the last team to run on the endurance course.

“We saw a lot of cars overheat and teams fail endurance, so we just wanted to be consistent and not drive the car too hard. We knew if we were consistent in our performance and just finished, it would be a big bonus,” Langlas said. “We added a more powerful fan to keep the car cool as a precaution. We also changed our engine to lean tuning, which uses less fuel. We knew we didn’t have to push for the fastest time. Endurance is all about finishing, and that’s what we did.”

Langlas was also quick to attribute the team’s success to the skill of the two drivers, Nick Roberts and Trent Strunk.

“We knew we’d built a fast car, but having two great drivers is a big benefit. They were consistent in all the races and really brought out the most in the car,” Langlas said.

The competition also allowed Jayhawk Motorsports to showcase their engineering skills beyond the racetrack. KU placed first in the design category, which is set up to assess the theory behind the construction of the car.

“Such a strong showing in design is a great example of how well-rounded the engineering experience is at KU. It’s not just about making the fastest car. We have to test the car, document the testing procedures, analyze the data and present that to judges in a clear, comprehensive way,” Langlas said. “That’s a great reflection on Dr. Sorem’s vision for the program. Sorem focuses on creating good engineers, and it shows in the team’s performance year after year.”

This is the second time in program history – and second time in three years – that Jayhawk Motorsports has finished first overall at a Formula car competition. The 2014 team joins the 2012 squad in taking first overall at Formula SAE Lincoln.

Langlas said a strong network of support, guidance and feedback from previous team members helps maintain the success of Jayhawk Motorsports.

“Alumni support is critical for us. Former team members learn things in their jobs that benefit the team and they’re quick to share that knowledge with us and lend a hand. Their involvement is a real benefit,” Langlas said.

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