Photo Courtesy Robert Szybalski

Burning Out

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By Rafael Brusilow

Ryerson’s Formula SAE racing team was runner-up in Canada last year, but this year it’s running out of money.

“If we don’t get enough money to buy tires and other equipment, we won’t be able to race,” says aerospace engineering student and SAE team member Robert Szybalski.

Ryerson’s racing team finished second among competing Canadian universities in an annual international race organization by the Society of Automotive Engineers in the United States.

In the race, competing engineers design and build — from scratch — miniature Formula One cars that can reach speeds of more than 130 km/h.

Despite Ryerson’s high finish last year, the team has received only $7,000 from the university’s Project Funding Allocation Committee. According to the SAE team, they’ll need at least $20,000 more to race again this year.

Ryerson competed for the first time in the Collegiate Design Series in 2001, but dropped out two years ago because, much like this year, they didn’t get enough money from the university.

Last year, RyeSAC donated $6,000 and the university eventually coughed up another $18,000 just weeks before the race.

“By that time, a lot of us were maxed our on our credit cards,” Szybalski says.

The team has received no money from RyeSAC this year.

Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse says he supports the Formula SAE team in spirit, but didn’t elaborate on whether that good cheer would lead to any financial backing.

“Sometimes we perhaps will not support [the SAE team] at as high a level as we would wish, but we’re always open to considering the issue,” Lajeunesse said.

While the team is asking for several thousand dollars, their cash demand pales in comparison to other Ryerson teams.

The men’s hockey team received more than $130,000 this year and managed only two wins among 22 losses.

Last year’s Formula SAE team’s car cost approximately $25,000 and was capable of going from zero to 100 km/h faster than a million dollar Ferrari Enzo.

“We compete on an international level — we probably get [Ryerson] more advertising than their [TTC] ad campaign,” says third-year mechanical engineering team member Chris Siemicki.

Not surprisingly, the lack of funding has left the team scrambling to fill the gap with a ragtag collection of private sponsors, including Yamaha who donated the team’s engine.

The University of Guelph’s Formula SAE team finished 24 places behind Ryerson at last year’s race, but their team has already received $25,000 from their school and has used the money to buy computers, parts, and tools.

While Ryerson’s team struggles in a cramped corner of a dark wind tunnel lab in the basement of East Kerr Hall — a space they share with three other engineering groups — Guelph’s team is blessed with a large workshop with an office and a private bathroom.

Ryerson team members have to store pieces of last year’s racer in their own garages because there’s no room for them in their workshop.

On election night, Derek Isber, RyeSAC vice president finance and services-elect, said he was committed to increasing RyeSAC’s support of the Formula SAE team.

“I actually fought to get them $10,000 when I was on the board of directors [last year],” Isber said.

The prospect of future funding is nice, says Szybalski, but for now the team is surviving hand-to-mouth.

“It’s great [RyeSAC] gave us the money last year, but we really need the money this year.”

According to current RyeSAC vice president finance and services Mike Verticchio the Formula SAE team has yet to approach RyeSAC for money this year.

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