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Huskie Motorsports shifts into high gear

By in Features
Huskie Motorsports Formula SAE car ripping it up on the test track.

“It’s basically a whole year, countless hours of work, coming down to one moment,” said Teagan Klassen, the Huskie Motorsports engine director.

Klassen was one of the team’s three drivers in last summer’s Formula SAE competition in Lincoln, Neb.

Formula SAE is an international engineering and marketing student competition hosted by the Society of Automotive Engineers. University of Saskatchewan students, predominantly from the College of Engineering but also from Edwards School of Business, compete under the Huskie Motorsports name every year.

The competition, which is restricted to small, open-wheeled, formula-style race cars (or Formula SAE cars), evaluates teams on their car’s driving abilities, design, cost and market potential.

“The competition has a lot of aspects that aren’t just performance-oriented,” said the team’s staff advisor Glen Hauser, who is also the manager of the College of Engineering’s IT department.

The competition also includes a marketing presentation.

Engine director Teagan Klassen takes a break while the motorsports team works away.

“The marketing competition is kind of like a Dragons’ Den-type of situation. You have three judges and they are like bankers. You’re coming in and saying we are this company — Huskie Motorsports — and we want to mass produce these vehicles,” Hauser said.

The driving competition is separated into four separate time trials. There’s a figure-eight track to measure the car’s lateral acceleration. A drag race times the car’s speed off the line. An autocross course (or obstacle course) is used to gauge the car’s handling abilities. And a 22-kilometre endurance time trial measures the car’s stamina and fuel economy.

Klassen drove in both the endurance test and the autocross competition.

He said the pressure he felt before the races, sitting on the line and waiting for the green light was immense.

“It’s like that final test. It’s like the penalty shot at the end of the game. You’ve got to get it done.”

Huskie Motorsports, which sends 20-25 team members to the competition but often sees 60-75 students a year help with the car, spends the entire year preparing for Formula SAE. Klassen knows there is a lot riding on his time trials.

“You feel like Atlas, like you are just holding up the world.”

The next Formula SAE competition will again be held in Lincoln from June 19-22, 2013. Klassen intends to drive again and the team is looking for a few new drivers as several team members graduated last year.

Brett Derkach, the team’s vice-president, hopes he can step up in the driver’s seat. He did not go to the competition last year but has been on the team for three years.

Brett Derkach (left) tinkers with the car while a teammate looks on.

Derkach said he spent a lot of time driving in super slalom events over the summer.

The events are local and because there are no other Formula SAE teams in Saskatchewan, Huskie Motorsports just performs time trials.

“I’ve gone into all of those trials and I’ve tried to get as much seat time as possible so I can get the experience.”

While driver positions are highly contended, both Derkach and Klassen stressed that the team’s overall success is always on a much higher pedestal than individual egos.

“It’s not about the driver,” said Klassen, who also spends a lot of time working on the car. “I’m basically driving the car to represent the team. I just happened to be the best representation, but if someone is better than me, I just say go ahead and drive because we want to do what’s best for the team.”

Huskie Motorsports president Dave Murray said that the behind-the-scenes aspects of the team are just as important as the actual driving.

“Building a frame from scratch is a pretty complex thing so you’ve got to always have someone there who knows what’s going on and who can train newer members on welding, grinding and that sort of thing,” Murray said.

“I don’t usually drive at competition. I’m not much of a race driver,” he added. “I usually drive around [the Credit Union Centre parking lot] and test cars out and make sure they are tuned right before we go out to competition.”

Murray, Klassen and Derkach are all third-year mechanical engineering students and have all been with Huskie Motorsports for three years.

Formula SAE is no go-kart race
Huskie Motorsports president Dave Murray helps Derkach tweak the brakes.

While Huskie Motorsports’ Formula SAE car might look like a simple go-kart to the untrained eye, it is much more powerful than the average 10-20 horsepower go-kart.

The cars weigh around 225 kilograms and use a motorcycle engine that gives the car about 80 horsepower.

“A lot of our past drivers have had some carting experience, which helped them. But it’s still a big step from this car, which is a full suspension car with a fully designed chassis and all these engineering components that really affect how the car handles compared to other cars,” engine director Teagan Klassen said.

“We can out accelerate a Dodge Viper. We’ll outhandle a Corvette,” added staff advisor Glen Hauser.

Lateral acceleration, which is measured in g-force (gravitational force) units, is a vehicle’s ability to accelerate while turning or on a curved path.

“If you look at production sports cars, they achieve about one g of acceleration,” Hauser said. “We achieve about one-and-a-half g with bursts of up to three g of lateral acceleration.”

This year’s car will have a brand new engine. Hauser hopes the new engine will mean the team can keep last year’s car together.

“A lot of the pieces that we have for this year’s car won’t be interchangeable” with last year’s car, Hauser said.

“I do want to keep [last year’s car] together because it’s a good car for training purposes.”


Photos: Huskie Motorsports &
Kevin Menz/The Sheaf

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