UF SAE Team Races on with Elite Porsche Sponsorship

UF SAE car on the track. Photo courtesy of Neil Mason, UF SAE

It’s pronounced “Porsh-uh.”

It’s the name that represents the unattainable, the finest things in life. When you say it, you say it with reverence.

Porsche.

It’s the name that rolls off the tongue when you draw comparisons to what you want but you can’t have. The car you dream of owning.

For SAE teams, it also represented what could only be a dream—until now.

For the first time, Porsche has decided to sponsor an SAE team: The University of Florida’s SAE team.

SAE, which stands for the Society of Automotive Engineers, is a campus club in which university-level engineering students build their own vehicles and compete as representatives of their university.

For UF’s team, it’s an opportunity to turn heads.

“Having the prestige of Porsche’s name attached will help attract other investment,” said Neil Mason, UF SAE President. “We can also attract attention from other students at the university and help attract high school kids to engineering.”

The sponsorship package includes: A monetary donation, the Porsche logo featured on the team’s gear and a trip for three of the team’s drivers to go to the Porsche Sport Driving School in Birmingham, Alabama.

What the sponsorship does not include that you might assume: physical parts, Mason said. For example, Porsche won’t be providing a car or an engine.

Porsche doesn’t make an engine small enough to fit into an SAE car, but more importantly SAE cars aren’t cakes you buy from your favorite supermarket. They’re built from scratch.

UF has not won an SAE competition to date. They are hoping the sponsorship can help take them change that.

“It’s an international competition,” Mason said. “The best from around the world come to the competition we come to. Some of these technical universities around the world—their students get a year off just to focus on SAE. Do you know what we could do if we got an entire year off just do SAE?”

Half of the competition is racing and driving. The other half is business.

A mock presentation is required, where the students attempt to woo industry professionals with a business presentation based on selling their creations.

Porsche believes they can help UF with that, and that UF can help the company reach a younger audience.

UF students may not be able to afford Porsche vehicles today, but today’s college students are tomorrow’s Porsche owners, spokesman Aaron Ormond said.

Though in the past, the company had received a number of solicitations from SAE teams for its sponsorship, it had never gotten involved.

This year, things changed.

The company is actively seeking a younger demographic amidst an aging population. With younger college students increasingly eschewing automobiles and seeking alternative transportation, the company decided it needed to reach out to a younger audience and re-establish their brand in the minds of the younger generation.

“We want to create fascination for Porsche vehicles,” Ormond said. “It’s more about giving back to future generations. We want to make sure we’re creating car fans of the future.”

The new sponsorship will make its public debut at Formula SAE Michigan, held at Michigan International Speedway on May 8 through May 11.

UF’s most recent finish at this event was 19th out of 124 teams. The Gator SAE team holds the distinction of being the only SAE team to finish in the top ten three consecutive times. They did so in a stretch ranging from the 2005-2006 through the 2007-2008 seasons.