No. 3 world ranking for Illini Motorsports

5/9/2023 Urim Song Zhu

UIUC's 2022-23 national championship Formula SAE team, Illini Motorsports, is currently ranked number 3 in the world.

Written by Urim Song Zhu

Illini Motorsports Formula SAEAmong more than 500 schools that compete in one of the most competitive formula racing competitions, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign team, Illini Motorsports, has established itself time and again as a top Formula SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) competitor. Currently ranked third in the world, the team has been dominating competitions with an average score of 770 out of 1000 points.  

Points are earned at each competition for aspects like vehicle design, presentation, acceleration, endurance, auto-cross, and skid-pad. Rankings are computed using the average number of points earned over the prior six competition events. Monash University in Australia and University of Michigan rank first and second, respectively.

“The Formula SAE series is the largest and most competitive formula race car series in the world with over 500 teams competing each year. For comparison, Formula 1 has only 10 teams. So, to be in the top 10 of the Formula SAE world rankings is always a huge achievement for us,” said Michael Philpott, faculty advisor for the team and an associate professor emeritus in MechSE.

Team Captain and mechanical engineering undergrad Blaine Hesler credits the team’s ongoing success to both the transfer of knowledge between graduating classes and the passion and cooperation displayed by the team’s active members.

Building a car poses many challenges, and maintaining an award-winning streak introduces even more. Hesler reflected that the biggest challenge every year is actually building the car. “As students, our strengths tend to lie more on the design side of the competition and less on the project management and manufacturing side of engineering so this usually makes things more difficult than we anticipate,” he said.

However, to the team, these challenges and difficulties are what make engineering so fun, and solving them has been rewarding. “No one wants to see plans change during the build, but working around that is the name of the game,” he said.

The 2022 FSAE car was perhaps one of the most impressive feats to date for the Illinois team, achieving the second highest score ever recorded in the history of FSAE at 954 points. In addition, the team had a nearly clean sweep of first-place finishes. Although winning the national championship was thrilling for everyone, the team soon began discussing how they could improve the car for the 2023 competition cycle. For this team, success in the competition is just another step toward their goal to “build an awesome team and racecar.”

Illinois FSA encompasses a wealth of knowledge and experience that has grown with each graduating class. Hesler was originally motivated to join the team because it offered opportunity for students from any discipline to gain hands-on experience. As team captain, he encourages prospective FSAE members to take advantage as he did.

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This story was published May 9, 2023.