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Formula car team shifts gears

Mizzou formula car team members have redoubled their recruiting efforts in hopes of building a deeper, two-car team. From left, team President Andrew Blaquiere discusses team membership during an engineering barbeque with freshmen Dexter Patton, Jacob Novak, Mark Reeves and new recruit Pat Corcoran. Photo by Jan Wiese-Fales

Fueled by a disappointing season, the MU formula car team is changing direction to add both depth and competition time to the student organization.

The Mizzou team’s plans to compete in the 2007 Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Formula Car West race in California came to a sudden stop last June when a malfunctioning cable caused the car to crash shortly before the competition. While no one was hurt in the accident, the car sustained enough damage to sideline it for several months.

Mizzou racing team members decided to use the setback as a starting point for a larger, two-car team that would race as often as four times per year. Under the new organization, one portion of the team would work on and race last year’s car while other team members design and build a new race car for 2008.

“It gives us the opportunity to test and tune the car, which, in a one-year time frame, we haven’t had the time to do the way we’d like,” said Matthew Beaty, a mechanical engineering senior who has been on the Mizzou racing team for four years. “The more time we have to test, the better we can do to prevent problems on the track.”

Team leaders already are working to recruit the new members that a two-car system would encompass. Nearly 30 students signed up to learn more about the formula car team at recruitment events the group held in August, said Andrew Blaquiere, a mechanical engineering senior serving as team president this year.

The new recruits will be paired with upper classmen in a mentor program, Blaquiere said. Using additional project opportunities that the new system provides, the team’s older students will teach construction techniques to the younger members for eight weeks and then supervise projects assigned to the recruits, Blaquiere said.

The reorganized team plans to compete in more races than ever before.

Team members will ready last year’s car for a race that the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is sponsoring for the first time in October, team adviser Marty Walker said. The older car is slated to race in a Sports Car Club of America competition in March , as well as in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Formula Competition held in Detroit, Mich. each May, he said.

The new car is scheduled to debut at next June’s SAE Formula Car West race, Blaquiere said.

Blaquiere believes Mizzou’s new team organization will help make the team more competitive even as it paves the way for more student participation. MU’s team leaders have noticed for a few years that the most successful formula car teams typically operate on a two-year cycle, but had been reluctant to lose a year in competition to initiate it, he said.

“Last year’s accident was a disappointment, but it’s proven to be extremely helpful,” Blaquiere said.