Washington University's first FSAE car was built during 2002. The infant program consisted of student enthusiasts interested in learning about race vehicle dynamics as a way to get their hands dirty. At the annual Formula SAE competition in Detroit, the team finished in 87th place overall out of 125 participants. For a first year team with little experience, this result was commendable. After 2002, the team was left with few members, which made one-year build cycles out of reach.
Dr. Jeremy Neubauer was a graduate student during the revival of the program in 2004. With his enthusiasm and an elective course entitled "Formula Challenge Vehicle Design", many new students joined the program. A car was finished with two driver training days to spare before the 2005 competition. Nevertheless, the team placed 45th out of 125 teams and 19th in the acceleration event. Ahead of many teams with far more experience, Washington University had made a name for itself in the series. After 2005, the program decided to work for two years to prepare its next vehicle. With many new members and a determination for success, the team aimed to beat their previous result at the 2007 Formula SAE Competiton in Detroit.
The formula car exceeded all expectations at competition. Not only was it recognized by most teams as one of the cleanest cars present, its performance matched the aesthetics in keeping the team with the front runners throughout the preliminary events. Having passed tech inspection after fixing safety wire issues, Melissa Holtmeyer, Matt Schweiker, and Jake Sparks pushed the car in the Acceleration and Skidpad Events. Subsequently, Joe Nelson and Eric Jensen drove the car into the top 25 at the AutoCross event, giving the team the chance to race against the best in the Endurance challenge. As the weather continued to threaten the event, the team had its rain tires on hand to contend with expected downpour.
The morning of the Endurance Race was rain free, albeit bitterly cold. As the top 25 gathered in the pits, the struggle to save fuel while bringing the cars up to race temperature had begun. Unfortunately, the team was given 30 seconds warning prior to their first stint. The cold oil in the resivoir led to a very high pressure inside the engine as Eric Jensen attempted to keep it well below its redline. As a result, a pinhole in the valve cover gasket was the site of catastrophic failure (much like water flowing through a small hole in a dam) as the engine's oil was completely evacuated within two laps. After coating the left rear tire, left rear brake rotor and caliper, and much of the rear drivetrain, the car became impossible to handle on track. The officials disqualified the effort after a thorough check of the rear portion of the vehicle, much to the dismay of the team. Although the competition ended a bit too early for Wash U, the team had a fantastic time and learned much from the judges on hand. With a great car to train and practice with, WUracing will be back and better than ever in 2011.