BARRIE — The wind was bitterly cold outside Barrie’s Molson Centre, which housed this year’s Formula North competition from May 23–26. Thirty-five teams from universities across Canada and the USA, and one from Estonia, huddled around their cars in the rink-turned-auto shop. Tucked away in a corner was Western’s team of engineers making last-minute adjustments to their car before the autocross event.
Despite first impressions, the competition was not simply a test of speed, but an entire business conference to attract potential employers and sponsors for the engineers and their car designs.
Formula North was the second conference the team attended in May, after traveling to Michigan for the Society of Automotive Engineers’ annual international meet earlier that month.
“The majority of the teams that beat us in Michigan this year were teams that came over from Europe that were sponsored by really big name brands like Red Bull, Mercedes and Porsche,” Meg French, a spokesperson for the Western team, explained.
However, what Western’s team lacked in sponsorship they made up for in commitment and ambition.
“A bunch of other schools have [formula racing] as an engineering class, which takes off a lot of time for them. For us we have to do it on top of everything,” Bennett Heidenreich, the steering and suspension engineer, said. “We could probably get it [as a course] if we wanted, but we don’t want to because we’re all volunteers, so everyone who’s here wants to be here. If you introduced it as a course then you would have people who would come in and half-ass it.”
On May 24 the team competed in Formula North’s static events, including marketing, cost, and engineering design. Western placed 12th overall in the static events.
Next, they competed in the dynamic events over May 25 and 26, which included skid-pad, acceleration, autocross, endurance, and fuel economy. The competition was a level system, meaning each team had to achieve a certain score in each dynamic event to compete in the next one.
Unfortunately for Adam Bezzina, one of two drivers for the Western team, the corner of the side panel of the car fell off during his first lap of the autocross track.
“The body is from last year because they modified it to work with the new radiator that they put in that is huge, and it’s not fit super snug to the frame like the other one, so what happened is this little corner popped off in Adam’s first run, and they had to duct tape it back on,” French explained. “[Ryan Alexander, another driver with the team, and Bezzina] are both kind of annoyed because they knew they could go faster, but it was a slow track and not really the right distance they wanted.”
Despite the autocross mishap, Western advanced to the endurance event and achieved an overall ranking of 12th in the dynamic events.
Western’s final ranking was 11th overall for the Formula North competition, which surpassed their goal of top 20, according to French. With a team mantra of ‘excellence, endurance and enthusiasm,’ and full-time hours of commitment on top of engineering courses, it’s no wonder they beat Queen’s and McGill.