Illini Motorsports: National Champions!

6/27/2022 Julia Park

The Illinois team's score of 954 points out of 1000 was the second highest score in the history of the Formula SAE competition.

Written by Julia Park

For the first time in the University of Illinois Formula SAE 40-year history, its team won both of the competitions that comprised the 2022 Formula SAE National Collegiate series—finishing as the national champions with a nearly clean sweep of first-place trophies.

At the final event last weekend – the 2022 Formula SAE National Collegiate Competition at Michigan International Speedway – the team dominated the approximately 60 teams from across North America. Their score of 954 points out of 1000 was the second highest score in the history of the Formula SAE competition.

At the first event, held in May, facing competition from 89 other universities, the team, also known as Illini Motorsports, was named the top overall performer, finishing first in the Design and Endurance categories and second in Cost.

The Illinois team designed and built a high-performance race car with an outstanding level of engineering competence. With extremely capable drivers who were well practiced, they were able to handle the pressures of a highly competitive event.

“I have been doing this for many years and I have never before witnessed such an amazing performance. The weather was good and it was great fun to watch!” said MechSE Associate Professor Emeritus Michael Philpott, a faculty advisor for the team.

In addition to first place overall, the Illinois team also boasted:

  • 1st in Vehicle Design (a series of grueling assessments and evaluations of each team and their vehicle design decisions by leading industry experts)
  • 1st in Acceleration (straight line hard-down 0-60)
  • 1st in Endurance (a 22-lap race with one driver change and automatic disqualification on vehicle component failure, loss of fluids, etc.)
  • 1st in Autocross (single lap, sharp twists and turns around cones, fastest lap time to win)
  • 2nd in Skid Pad (behind Purdue)

Second place overall went to Purdue and third place to the University of Texas at Arlington.

Team leaders and MechSE undergraduates Mike Kowalski and Jaden Thompson credited the team’s success to their proactive work well in advance of any testing stages and competitions. Philpott agreed.

“Overall, the team managed the project incredibly well, finishing the build stage earlier than ever before, and giving themselves two to three months of rigorous testing and development before the first competition. This is how you do it!!”

Team captain for the upcoming 2022-23 year Blaine Hesler spoke directly to the assistance provided by Philpott as well as MechSE’s Bruce Flachsbart, Director of the Engineering Student Project Lab, and Mark Pinson in the MechSE Machine Shop, along with many others.

“Thank you for the support in making this competition a possibility for the team. Over the past 41 years, Formula SAE has been a life-changing experience for thousands of students at Illinois. I cannot express how much of a role university support plays in providing the tools to the excellent student-engineers that comprise this team. It is thanks to university support that we can continue to represent the University of Illinois in a manner befitting of our reputation as a top engineering school,” Hesler said.

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This story was published June 27, 2022.