Texas Autocross Weekend set for July 23 at UT Arlington

News Release — 15 July 2011


Media contact: Kristin Sullivan, (817) 272-5364, kristinsul@uta.edu

ARLINGTON - UT Arlington’s Formula SAE racing team will debut its hybrid car in the 11th annual Texas Autocross Weekend beginning July 23 on the University campus.

The annual competition will feature 12 college teams from across the United States, including representatives from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Florida, Missouri and Ohio. Five teams competed in the first year of the event. This year, Texas A&M, UT Austin, University of Kansas and University of South Florida highlight some of the visitors.

UT Arlington FSAE team

UT Arlington FSAE team driver Tim Patek, a graduate student, and former team members Denver Stone, left, and Richard Fielder.

Top cars designed and built by student members of the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers will compete for bragging rights on two different autocross tracks, which will be set on UT Arlington parking lots near Cooper and Mitchell streets. The competition measures speed and precision.

"It allows the students to finally enjoy the fruits of their hard labor,” said Erian Armanios, chair of UT Arlington’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department. “This year, the hybrid formula marries our passion to push the performance limits with our stewardship of the environment.”

The weekend’s events are free and open to the public. Highlights include:

  • Open house in the UT Arlington FSAE shop after 1 p.m. Friday, July 22, in Woolf Hall, Rooms 102, 104 and 121. Teams will be tweaking their racing machines to provide an edge for the weekend’s racing.
  • 11th Annual Texas Autocross Weekend starts at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, July 23, at Lot 49 on the UT Arlington campus. (Please see map at http://www.uta.edu/maps/transportation/.) The teams break for lunch, then continue racing from 1-5 p.m.
  • An FSAE-style course will be outlined for racers in the morning, while a Sports Car Club of America track will greet racers Saturday afternoon.
  • Equipe Rapide, a local sports car club, will sponsor a racing event Sunday at Pennington Field in Bedford.

Bob Woods, UT Arlington FSAE adviser and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, said the University’s event has become one of the larger competitions for FSAE racing. The program gives students experience far beyond what they could learn in a classroom, he said.

“They conceive, budget, design, build, fine-tune and drive these cars,” Woods said. “They put in 20 hours a week and sometimes more to do all that.”

J.P. Merkel, a UT Arlington senior and captain of the hybrid team, estimates that the vehicle may top out at 80 mph on the track and accelerate at more than 1G – four times faster than an average street car. The car runs on ethanol and electricity, is four-wheel drive with a full onboard computer, which not only controls the car and gives feedback on how the car is handling on the track.

“We set out to design and build one of the most sophisticated and advanced hybrid racecars yet,” Merkel said. “Most schools take an older formula car and strap an electric motor on it and race it. We designed a hybrid with competitive advantages.”

UT Arlington junior Lena Gerry, team captain for the formula car, said she enjoys being part of her team and the sport aspects of working on the cars.

“But what I really like is learning the science and technology of everything involved with these cars,” Gerry said. “I’d love to design Formula 1 racing cars when I’m finished here. Of course, that’s everyone’s dream job.”

Make McDermott, a visiting associate professor at TAMU, said UT Arlington’s event gives students the opportunity to prove their work and see how it compares with that of their peers.

“UT Arlington puts on a great event. There are great racecourses, great food and it’s just a fun time,” said McDermott, who plans to bringing a dozen students.

The University of Texas at Arlington is a research institution of nearly 34,000 students in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.


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