Fast on the track, race team seeks wins off it


2012 Zips racing

Team captain Dan Lough, right, and DJ Demasi with the Zips Racing 2012 car. The team will race the car in Michigan, Germany and Austria in the coming months.

You ease into the seat of a new car for the first time. Everything you see, hear, smell and touch has been fussed over by scores of engineers -- all to assure that the fit, or ergonomics, of the car is just right for you.

Student engineers at UA have a like-minded focus on ergonomics as they design this year's Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) race car for international competitions this spring.

Over the years, UA's teams have performed exceptionally well on the track.

This year, they also want to score highly in the "static" or non-racing aspects of the competition. The ergonomics of the cockpit are receiving more attention, as are the technical inspections and the all-important pitch of the business plan to judges posing as skeptical investors.

The University of Akron

The team unveils the car Monday in the Student Union Ballroom.

Zips racing 2012

Team members fabricate more than 90 percent of the car every year.

The judges are top designers, engineers and business executives from GM, Ford, Chrysler and other international brands.

The rival teams are also global in nature, coming from some of the world's best known universities.

"It's really a comprehensive test of a team's ability to design, build, race and market a car, essentially from scratch," said Michinari Limbacher, a senior mechanical design engineering students and a three-year member of the team.  "It's been enormously valuable to me as a student because it gives me a taste of what the industry is really like and allows me to apply what I've learned in the classroom in a real-world environment."

A new car is designed every year. Team members fabricate more than 90 percent of the components, spending upward of 25 hours a week in the new Margaret F. Donovan Student Design Center in Auburn Science and Engineering Center.

Testing and fine tuning is the priority now, with the team prepping for a day at the professional test track owned by The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., a major sponsor of the team.

Overseas competitions

The first event in the 2012 Formula SAE design competition will draw Akron and 120 other teams to Michigan International Speedway May 9-12. Then the Akron team will travel to Europe for SAE competitions in Austria and Germany.

"It's a privilege to compete in Germany, especially as they allow only a select amount of North American teams to compete," Limbacher said. "Usually, it is a matter of several seconds that determines who gets the chance to go."

Dan Lough is the team captain for Zips Racing. Dr. Richard Gross, visiting associate professor of mechanical engineering, is the adviser.

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Media contact: Eileen Korey, 330-972-8589 or