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The Sun Devil Motorsports team spent most of the past year designing and building the race car that team members took to this summer’s international Formula SAE competition. Photographer: Alexander Nie/ASU


The team that Arizona State University’s chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers sent this summer to the most prominent international student race car design and performance competition showed vast improvement over the previous year.

The Sun Devil Motorsports team of about 30 students — most of them in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering — scored 375.5 points in the Formula SAE event in Lincoln, Nebraska. That tripled the score achieved by the 2016 team, and came up only 4.7 points shy of the best score yet by an ASU team in a few dozen Formula SAE competitions since the mid-1990s.

This year’s score put the squad in 40th place among the 80 or so college and university teams that participated in the event, a result that was a jump of 20 places over last summer’s performance.

“We are building momentum,” says Troy Buhr, who captained this year’s team. “We’ve laid a foundation to build on what we’ve learned through each of the past years’ competitions, and we are staying aggressive.”

The team’s car was evaluated on design, engineering, costs, driving performance, endurance and more — including a business plan. Photographer: Alexander Nie/ASU

In the competition, cars are evaluated on technical details and cost analysis. Teams submit to judges an in-depth evaluation of the engineering principles that guided the design and building of the car.

Teams also give a sales presentation requiring them to make the case for how mass production of their vehicle could be a viable business venture.

Cars are judged further on their performance in acceleration, aerodynamics, braking, general driving stability, overall efficiency and endurance. They’re driven on an autocross run, a timed competition requiring drivers to navigate a track designed to test the vehicle’s responsiveness and road-handling capabilities.

Buhr graduated this past spring with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Fulton Schools and is now working for Ford Motor Company in Michigan. He will be succeeded as captain of ASU’s Formula SAE team by William Craig, a junior electrical systems engineering major.

Buhr leaves the role confident the team will build on its recent progress.

“They will continue to improve. I believe the team could easily score 500-plus points in 2018 and move up another 20 or more places,” he says. “They have the leadership and the knowledge to do that.”

Interested in joining the team? Learn more about Sun Devil Motorsports and the Formula SAE team.

ASU’s Formula SAE team poses with its race car during the competition in Lincoln, Nebraska. Photographer: Alexander Nie/ASU