UW-Madison Formula SAE race team wins 2007 championship

By Bryan Sims | July 20, 2007
The University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-M) Engineering Department Formula SAE Team, supported by signature sponsor United Wisconsin Grain Producers LLC (UWGP), won its first world championship in Romeo, Mich., in May. Running on E85, the UW-M team finished first in a field of 130 participating teams from around the world.

This was UWGP's first time sponsoring the UW-M SAE team, coinciding with the team's first year using E85 in its races. UWGP supplied the fuel to the team. "You don't have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get effective sponsorships," said UWGP President and CEO Jeff Robertson. "We'd like to encourage other ethanol plants to look at ways to get young people more educated about the fuel."

The UW-M SAE race team had finished in the top 10 the past three years, but this year beat out perennial favorites Cornell University, returning champion RMIT from Melbourne, Australia, and many other high-profile competitors. UW-M was one of 15 teams using E85 against 115 others that ran on unleaded gasoline.

The Formula SAE is a student design competition sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers. The concept behind the competition is that a fictional manufacturing company contracts a student design team from a university to develop a small Formula-style prototype race car. Each of the cars built by the respective engineering schools was judged based on eight categories, which totaled 1,000 points: design, cost and manufacturing analysis, presentation, acceleration, skidpad, autocross, fuel economy and endurance. Each team raced its respective vehicle separately on a 22-kilometer track similar to a Le Mans course.

"Having this experience with E85 may allow them to promote engine designs or fuel system designs, which would make E85 used more effectively," Robertson said. "We expect there will be more teams switching to E85 next year as a result of the win."