By Charles Vanegas
Members of the Ryerson Formula Racing (RFR) team gather around a partially built race car in the basement of Kerr Hall as they install the engine.
It’s too early in development to know all the details, but one thing is certain: it’s going to be fast. The engine they’ve just installed is that of a 2007 Yamaha R6 motorcycle, which has a top speed of 295 km/h. But as a safety precaution, they restricted the air intake — forcing the air entering the engine to fit through the diameter of a dime to bring down the revolutions per minutes (RPM) from 15,000 to about 9,000.
“Our cars aren’t designed to go that fast, they would just disintegrate,” said fourth-year mechanical engineering student Dan Savery, who desiged the air intake.
Although the car still needs a lot of work, the RFR team has already registered it into the Formula SAE International Series in Brooklyn, Michigan. It’s a competition that pits students from 120 universities worldwide against each other. The event, which will be held May 14 – 17, tests teams on everything from speed and fuel consumption, to design and marketing presentation.
“[F1 racing] is small in North America — the big stuff is in Germany, Italy [and] England,” said team captain and fourth-year mechanical engineering student Greg Lister.
Without major corporate backing, Ryerson’s team relies on the university as well as a variety of smaller sponsors for funding. RFR currently has 12 sponsors, but just the registration fee for the Formula SAE series costs $2,100 — and the team still has to be able to afford to build the car.
This season, RFR has seen serious commitment from members — some spending upwards of 15 hours per day in the shop. Lister said that the only classes he attends are labs.
“I go to school for this team,” Lister said. “I know that [it] will get me a better job than my marks will.”
As captain of RFR this season, it’s Lister’s job not only to work on one of the 10 systems of the car, but to also make sure he and the other system managers are communicating and working together.
“If the chassis (framework) guy doesn’t communicate with the intake guy and the suspension guy, then things won’t fit,” Lister said. “Every little thing works together.”
The team spent the fall semester designing their car and studying the designs of last year’s Formula SAE’s top 10 cars in each individual category. They are now in the building and redesigning stage.
While RFR is run through the engineering department and consists predominantly of engineering students, the team is open to all faculties.
But for those hoping to work as engineers post-graduation, there’s extra incentive. In addition to the industry skills learned in the shop, involvement with the team counts as a year served by the Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO), which requires applicants to have four years of supervised engineering to become professional engineers.
“In engineering [classes], you don’t learn the teamwork that you learn here,” Savery said.
“This is a professional environment. It really forces you to pull up your socks and go above and beyond the engineering program for this race car team.”
Once the car is built, the team will test it out during autocross events hosted at the Powerade Centre in Brampton. One of the key tests will be determining who will drive at the Formula SAE. Typically, the driver is a senior member who put considerable time into the team, but Lister said it will come down to one factor.
“Fastest man drives -— period.”