Gator Motorsports Designs Race Car, Places Third at Annual Formula SAE Michigan Event

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The UF Gator Motorsports team.

The UF MAE Gator Motorsports team. (Photo special to The Gainesville Sun)

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by Alan Festo

Gator Motorsports, the University of Florida’s Formula SAE team, raced to the podium for the first time in seven years at the annual Formula SAE Michigan, held May 18-21 in Brooklyn, Michigan. 

Gator Motorsports competed against more than 90 teams and placed third overall in the international competition where students design, manufacture, assemble, test and race a small Formula 1-style race car. Villanova University came in second behind the winner University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The competition consisted of an engineering design presentation, where each team defended its design strategies against industry professionals, as well as four different types of races: acceleration, skidpad/figure 8, autocross and endurance.

Gator Motorsports placed first in acceleration, third in design and third in autocross. 

The UF Gator Motorsports team.

The UF MAE Gator Motorsports team. (Photo special to The Gainesville Sun)

Since placing second overall in 2015, Gator Motorsports had struggled to finish the endurance portion of the competition. The team redesigned its vehicle over the last two years, switching from 13-inch wheels to 10-inch wheels in 2020, and switching from a steel tube chassis to a carbon fiber monocoque chassis in 2021. 

“These changes required a complete overhaul of every system on the car, all while battling the challenges of COVID,” wrote team president Mitchell Thoeni in an email. “This year, we focused on working the kinks out after such radical changes and learning how the new car design behaved.”

Thoeni said this year’s vehicle is the team’s last powered by an internal combustion engine. Next season, the team is switching to an electric car.