Aztec Racing plans to overtake to the top with their student-built race car

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Aztec Racing

Aztec Racing driver Bryan Chaiyasane coming back from endurance at the 2019 Formula SAE race competition. (Courtesy of Aztec Racing)

by Xiomara Villarreal-Gerardo

San Diego State’s Aztec Racing team is preparing for the annual 2022 Formula SAE competition that will be held at the Michigan International Speedway from June 15 to June 18, 2022. The team is working on laying out their master plan for the year and hopes to build an impressive racecar that will produce a top-notch performance at the competition. 

The Aztec Racing team is a student organization that comes together to build a Formula One style auto-crossing race car from the ground up. They compete in an international engineering design competition called Formula SAE that is organized through the Society of Automotive Engineers International. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team was unable to compete at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA for the Formula SAE competition. Their last race was the 2019 Formula SAE competition in Lincoln, Nebraska where Aztec Racing took home 28th place internationally out of 76 teams. 

Andrew da Cunha, a junior mechanical engineer major and Chief Engineer of Aztec Racing, said they will be building an entirely new car using their previous design from 2019. 

“We will be testing the car to its limits while implementing design changes along the way in order to improve the car’s performance,” da Cunha said. “This year I hope to engineer a fantastic car and create a top-notch performance for the competition in June.”

President of Aztec Racing and senior mechanical engineer major Vanessa Ruiz said she has been a core member of Aztec Racing since 2018. She became Business Executive in 2019, was voted to become President in 2020, and had the opportunity to serve a second term as President for the 2021 season. 

Apart from building the race car, Aztec Racing also has a business team that manages the team’s image, sponsorships, marketing, fundraising and finances as well as presenting at the Formula SAE competition. 

Ruiz said it is crucial for the business team to be in tune with the engineering team so that together they can understand what is needed to successfully showcase the team.

“Now, with all of that, it prepares us for the SAE international collegiate competition that Aztec Racing competes in,” Ruiz said. “The business team’s role for the Formula SAE competition steers towards the static events, which are the coat presentation and the business presentation.”

Senior physics major and Aztec Racing member Eric Contreras said the race car is split into different sub-systems. Each group takes responsibility for a different portion of the vehicle like the chassis, suspension, and aerodynamics. Contreras said the build process usually begins during the middle of the fall semester and ends in the beginning or middle of the spring semester.

“This allows us to have a few months to test and collect data to determine if the vehicle performs as our designs intended,” said Contreras. “We aim to test the vehicle at least every two to three weeks leading up to the competition.”

Contreras said the race car’s chassis has been fully welded and the suspension pickup points are being welded onto it. He said the engineering team’s current progress of the race car is going well and he is confident that the car will be completed on schedule.

Austin Hoang, a 2020 SDSU computer engineering graduate and former Chief Engineer of Aztec Racing said he loved being a part of the team when he was a student at SDSU because of the great support they all gave each other.

“Everybody on the team was motivated to do well, and I believe some of them were motivated to have their teammates do even better than themselves,” Hoang said. “I think Aztec Racing ultimately assisted me in learning how to operate in a team dynamic, more so than any other classroom group project setting.”

This year, Hoang said he hopes to see the team use the engineering process he left behind and make the necessary improvements to achieve and conclude what he set out to do in the 2019-2020 year.

“From what I hear, they are well on their way to achieving that and more,” he said. “I’m so glad to see them shooting beyond the stars and I’m excited to see them succeed.”

Da Cunha said anyone can join the Aztec Racing team regardless of previous experience or major. 

“As long as they have an interest in what we are doing and are ready to get to work, anyone is more than welcome to become part of our team,” da Cunha said. “People can find a link on our Instagram (@sdsufsae) to a google form to sign up for our email listings as well as a link to join our slack channel where our team holds our discussions.”

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