The Baja SAE team aimed to improve the car's suspension system in order to achieve better performance in offroading environments. | Emma Kumagawa

Cal Poly Racing held Unveiling 2018 March 10, where three newly completed cars were revealed at Cal Poly’s Bonderson Projects Center. The cars will be tested throughout Spring 2018 in preparation for the approaching competition season.

“This is a really cool event for us to put on for sponsors, our own team members, family members,” Cal Poly Racing President and Baja team manager Robyn Ribet said.

With more than 125 members, Cal Poly Racing is the largest Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) chapter in California. The unveiling of the cars was put on by the Cal Poly Racing business team and organized by racing events coordinator and industrial technology junior Jordan Tomooka.

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Video by Shanti Herzog 

Cal Poly Racing is composed of two different building teams, the Formula SAE  (FSAE) team and a Baja SAE (BSAE) team, as well as a business team. Each team has a team lead, a tech director and a team manager to maintain organization within each area where they design different cars. Most of the building techniques used by each team are similar, yet the cars they engineer are very different.

Formula SAE team

Formula SAE vehicles cover long distances during competition and reach a maximum speed of 60 mph. | Emma Kumagawa

Each year, FSAE team members build two track cars: one combustion and one electric. These cars are meant for endurance racing. All preparation goes to their FSAE competition in Lincoln, Nebraska, which will be held June 20-23.

“It’s been a pretty long night and a long couple weeks leading up to this — a lot of work in the shops and getting the cars all built and ready to go,” FSAE team lead and mechanical engineering senior Adam Menashe said. “The whole team’s been working really hard and we’re really excited with what we’ve brought. We put the wheel on the ground last night for the first time and everyone was really happy about that.”

The SAE holds Collegiate Design Series competitions each year, where the Cal Poly Racing team enters their different cars to be judged.

In the 2017 competition, the Cal Poly FSAE team scored ninth out of 92 teams overall and ninth out of 29 teams for electric. This year, in attempt to further improve scores, the team made changes to both cars.

The electric car’s alterations focused on the vehicle’s powertrain, or the mechanism that translates drive from the engine to the axle, to optimize process improvement, serviceability and reliability.

Most of the changes made to the combustion car were mechanical changes, such as adjustments in suspension and pressure.

The team holds weekly meetings to discuss general information and uses Mondays and Wednesdays as work nights. Test drives will take place in the H-1 parking lot.

“I feel like I’ve learned more from Formula than I have the rest of my classes,” FSAE team member and electrical engineering sophomore Daniel Gutmann said. “It’s an amazing program, I love it.”

Baja SAE team

The BSAE team builds their one-person off -road vehicle yearly. In the spring, the car will enter two competitions; the first is in Mechanicsville, Maryland April 19-22, followed by the other in Portland, Oregon May 30 to June 2. BSAE team’s greatest accomplishment thus far has been placing fourth at BSAE California.

The team redesigns and modifies the car each year, with the exception of the engine. This year, many subsystems were introduced to increase reliability and mobility. The gearbox, powertrain system and overall suspension were improved, supporting the team’s goal of improving their speed record.

In addition to their weekly meetings, members attend Tuesday and Thursday work nights. The team drives to the Pozo La Panza Off-Highway Vehicle Area to test their cars over hills and rocks to familiarize themselves with an environment similar to a competition setting. According to Ribet, the team looks forward to testing their cars.

“Competition is one of the most rewarding experiences,” mechanical engineering sophomore Ribet said. “It’s when you really see like, ‘I built that, that’s on the track right now.’ Just to see the product of all this work is really incredible and rewarding to know that you do succeed, and you do make it, despite those long nights where you don’t think that you’re going to.”

The SAE holds Collegiate Design Series competitions each year, in which the Cal Poly Racing team enters their Formula SAE, Formula SAE Electric and Baja SAE cars.

The two racing teams had a past rivalry, but Ribet and the rest of the SAE board have made efforts to mend the relationship through bonding events.

“We try to keep a very collaborative environment between the teams, while still maintaining this level of professionalism so that we can still learn a lot from each other,” Ribet said.

During the first week of winter break, “build week,” both teams worked alongside one another, assembling their cars “all day, every day.”


The business team is the most recent addition to Cal Poly Racing. The team formed last year and is now comprised of 15 people who strive to build upon the racing team’s professional platform while capturing all of the fun shared behind the scenes. The business team has two categories: communication and creative. The communication aspect pertains to copywriting, outreach and sales presentations, while the creative side involves managing the website, social media, videos, photo and design.

For more information, you can visit their website here.

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