|The formula racing team at the Ferrari headquarters in Italy. (Photos courtesy of Clifford Stover)|
|Massimo Ceccarani, Lamborghini's technical director, meets with the Cal Poly Pomona team.|
Cal Poly Pomona's formula racing team earned a highly-respectable, fifth-place finish at the Society of Automotive Engineers formula competition in Italy.
The Broncos were the only American team pitted against more than 20 European teams during the three-day competition Sept. 21 - 23 at the world-class Ferrari headquarters.
"Our vehicle is as good as any team here, but we lack the horsepower some of the top teams have," stated Clifford Stover, faculty advisor for the formula and Baja racing teams, in an e-mail from Italy on Sept. 25. "Our team makes up for this by driving smooth, missing no events, and being prepared and professional."
The team finished every dynamic event in the top five and went into the final endurance tied for third place. The team also got a special nod for traveling the furthest to compete. The final results are posted.
The "Who's Who" of Formula 1 and Ferrari engineers were the judges during the 2007 SAE formula Italy competition, Stover stated. The design judges included Massimo Ceccarani, Lamborghini's technical director, Paolo Coeli, Fiat's research director, and the surprise judge, Aldo Costa, Ferrari's F1 chassis technical director.
"This is the opportunity of a lifetime for these students," Stover said. "Ferrari stepped up this year by opening up its Maranello facility for the competition. This shows the tremendous amount of respect the SAE design series gets in the international community."
Before heading abroad, the 20-member team competed in May at the national Formula SAE competition at the Ford Michigan Proving Grounds, finishing thirty-sixth out of 150.
By June, the team made some turnarounds with the car and placed eleventh out of 80 teams at the Formula SAE West at the California Speedway.
"One of our major goals is reliability, so we continue working on the car and testing our drivers," said team captain Cameron Walters, a mechanical engineering student.
The demands for the annual SAE Formula contests are rigorous and time consuming. Student teams must design and fabricate small formula-style race cars, in a process that takes nearly a year. There are tight restrictions for car frames and engines, so students must be resourceful, creative and imaginative in order to compete for the top prizes.
Professional engineers and racers rate the entries in categories such as engineering design, cost analysis and oral marketing presentation, not to mention the high-performance dynamic track events including acceleration, skid pad, autocross and endurance.
"These competitions are important educationally," said Jeremy Smith, a mechanical engineering student, who is president of the Broncos' SAE chapter. "Besides getting learn-by-doing and hands-on experience, we are also learning what we are good at professionally."
The team must give up many Friday nights to build a competitive car. They dubbed the time they spent at the mechanical engineering garage on campus Friday Fab, short for Friday Fabrication.
"We sacrificed our Friday nights for the whole year," Walters said.
This year, the team's success has gone beyond the garage and tracks. An unprecedented $60,000 in cash donations and $40,000 in material donations was raised to finance the project, according to Smith, who is also team treasurer. The average amount raised in previous years was just one-third of this year's. The biggest cash sponsorship, which will fund the trip to Italy, came from Associated Students, Inc.
For more than 20 years, Cal Poly Pomona's team, which has earned the attention of industry scouts, has led the cumulative Formula Society of Automotive Engineers rankings in California.
Cal Poly Pomona received tenth- and ninth-place honors in 1995 and 1996, respectively, as well as the Spirit of Excellence Trophy. In 1998, the team earned a respectable top 25 finish. The Broncos rebounded strongly in 2000 with a third-place finish, and in July 2000, the team became the first California entry to participate in the Formula Student competition in England, placing first.