August 30, 2000

Cornell Formula Racing Team a Dynasty

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So you think the guys and gals of the track teams are fast?

How about a team which routinely goes zero to 60 in less than four seconds?

Such is the way of the Cornell Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE), a group of students who lives for speed.

“Our goal is to design, build and race a formula-style car every year in a competition in Michigan at the end of May,” junior Erich Leonard said.

The team is one of the annual favorites at the event, winning five titles in the past 13 years.

It was started by Jay O’Connell, who transferred to Cornell from Brown in order to start the team, and earned “Rookie of the Year” honors in its first season of existence.

The following year, the squad started to build its dynasty, winning the 1988 title. Since then the team has claimed four more titles – 1992, ’93, ’97 and ’98.

In the 2000 competition, the squad had an excellent chance to add yet another championship to its resume, but a rear brake failure in the final event (the endurance race) prevented the team from finishing. Despite the trouble at the end, the team was proud of the car it built. It finished 13th out of over 100 teams.

“We won the acceleration event, took fourth in the autocross, and finished third in the final design,” Leonard said.

And just how fast did the car go in the true test of speed?

“The acceleration event is a 100-yard dash, you start from a standing stop and you take off. Whoever has the fastest time wins. We did the run in about 4.2 seconds, going 85 miles-per-hour at the end. We won by about one-tenth of a second, which is a fairly big margin,” Leonard said.

The five major groups comprise car team: chassis, engine, electrical, business and organization. Each of these groups is responsible for design and construction of the vehicle, or in the case of the business and organizational departments funding for the squad and making sure the project is on time.

“My job is to organize man-power and supervise the technical aspects so the project comes together as a whole,” senior Benjamin Kolp, leader of the organizational department, said.

The business section is also important for the team, as it is not funded by Cornell but does get office space from the university.

“We are sponsored by General Motors, Boeing, Hunter Irrigation and Proctor and Gamble because we are not Cornell-funded at all. A lot of other companies give us components and raw materials to build our car with. Local companies, like Bill’s Sunoco, often give us services that help us out a lot,” Leonard said.

While the squad is proud of its achievements, many members go onto bigger and better things after school. Former members of the squad are now with teams in Cart Racing, Formula-One and NASCAR.

“The car team is the best engineering experience, in my opinion, that you can get at Cornell,” Kolp said. “It provides a hands on opportunity that you can’t get in your classes.”

Archived article by J.V. Anderton