CSUN race car soon to hit the track and compete in Fontana

Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Ferrari, CSUN.

What do these have in common? They have all built race cars.

Students from the Society of Automotive Engineers CSUN chapter will take a race car – built with their own hands – and compete in Fontana, Calif. June 14.

“Our job is to emulate a real company that builds race cars and make the car and market it just like an actual automotive company,” said Ricardo Valdez, a mechanical engineering graduate student and manager of the project.

The formula-style race car is halfway through the manufacturing process. Afterward, there will be a testing period, which will be vital to the success of the car and the success of the CSUN racing team at the California Speedway.

The Yamaha/2005 YZF R6 engine model will potentially allow the car to reach a speed of 89.6 mph in the 6th gear.

The car is designed to be 114 inches in length, 55 inches in width, and 39 inches in height.

The car will a weigh about 600 pounds with a 150-pound driver, Valdez said. It has no name, but SAE members are thinking of naming it soon, he said.

The car being built will be significantly different than the vehicles in previous years.

“We’re doing a complete, innovative chassis design using carbon fiber, which is an ultra light and very strong material and (we’re) manufacturing it from our own mold,” Valdez said.

Since the carbon fiber material will make the vehicle weigh less, the race car will be faster.

The overall estimated cost of making the vehicle is about $18,131, and about 36 percent will be spent on the engine and drivetrain.

“The main industries that we are consulting kept telling us that we would not be able to do it all on our own, but we are proving them wrong and it is looking good,” Valdez said.

The car, currently in pieces, is estimated to be complete by early May. In the meantime, the racing team practices with a car that was used last year, he said.

The 2005 car, which placed 31st out of 80 in last year’s competition in England, was able to reach a speed of about 75 mph to 80 mph.

It was the first time the team has competed in an international venue.

“The main goal as of now is to look for sponsorship of this project,” said Erica Iida, a journalism major and head of public relations for the project.

There are 25 people on the team working in a lab in Jacaranda Hall on the car, crafting it to perfection, Valdez said.

Haas Automation has been a longtime sponsor of these projects for CSUN and has helped raise about $2,500 dollars for technical machinery, Iida said.

The engineering team building the race car is also receiving monetary help from some university organizations, such as Associated Students and Instruction Related Activities, for supplies and tooling.

The yearly competition, sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers, will be held in the west coast for the first time at the California Speedway in Fontana. For years, the competition was held in Detroit.

The competitions held in Detroit would typically be more difficult, with teams from about 140 colleges and universities competing.

This year, however, there will only be about 70 teams, Valdez said.

Members of the team, which includes four people and one alternate, are not professional race car drivers.

The competitions are usually ranked by a 1,000-point system based on both the financial and engineering aspects of the vehicle. The competition does not allow teams to spend more than $25,000.

If the team produces the least-expensive car, and the best quality vehicle, more points are awarded.

“This is not just a competition at the local level, but it is an international one,” Valdez said. “There will be teams from universities coming from Australia, Asia and South America.”

The CSUN team’s track record has been relatively successful. In the last competition CSUN came in 10th place, beating 40 colleges and universities, including MIT, USC, University of Texas Arlington and other Ivy League universities.

The team also ranked first throughout California.

“We are very confident in our car and our team,” Valdez said.

Talin Maghakian and Ernesto Elizarraraz can be reached at city@csun.edu.