The Anatomy of a Formula SAE Race Car

The University of Maryland Terps Racing team recently unveiled their brand-new 2012 Formula SAE car. They are looking forward to an upcoming first race, which will be held in Ontario, Canada on May 24th, and is known as Formula North. Over 70 school teams out of 1200 worldwide will be competing, and University of Maryland currently ranks 10th out of all 1200 schools. All of the individual school rankings can be seen here. They will be competing in two major races for Formula SAE, and will also participate in an additional 8 races for the SCCA, or Sports Car Club of America.


I had the opportunity to speak with C.J. Gorrell, student at U of MD and also Project Manager for the 2012 Terp’s Racing program, about some details of the new car. This year, Terps will be using a single cylinder 450cc Honda Dirtbike engine. This engine, coupled with the aerodynamic bodywork, will enable the car to accelerate from 0-60 in less than 3 seconds. They are also expecting it to pull 3-4 lateral g’s on the corners. Last year, the 2011 car used a Honda FY 600cc street motorcycle engine, and while it did have slightly more horsepower (60hp as opposed to this years 45hp), the lighter weight and improved design of the current car will enable faster lap times. They are also planning on turbocharging the car later in the season, which will bring the horsepower to 60+. A penalty is issued for using too much fuel, so keeping the displacement, and weight down are key to top results.


Aside from an improved engine configuration, lap times this year will also be decreased due to a major redesign of the car’s under tray. As referenced in our previous blog post: Terps Racing – 2012 Racecar Design, Coastal’s donation of high-density Precision Board Plus was used to make a 3d model of the under tray. This will add 150lbs. of additional downforce to the car and improve aerodynamics. In the past, students have used MDF to create master patterns, which took over 10 weeks for machining to be completed, as opposed to the 1-2 weeks Precision Board Plus took. They also praised the higher level of accuracy attained by using HDU.


Each race takes place on an auto-cross style track, and each team is ranked by time trials.  The track is quite narrow at 12ft. wide, and has many varying curves designed to challenge each driver. The University of Maryland will field 4 different race drivers, who were selected based on lap times from earlier tests. Speeds will reach over 60mph for the faster cars.

Check out the Terps Racing Facebook for many more pictures and regular updates on the car!

Also see the Official Terps Racing Website:

Here is a great video of the 2011 Terps Racing Car in action: