UNM Engineers turn the final corner as they enter the third stage of their three-semester build project. After months of preparation and design, the time has come to get their car on the track. June 19 is on the minds of the members of the UNM Lobo Racing Team.

The team placed 12th in 2012 and eighth in 2013 at the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers Series in Lincoln, Neb. John Russell, a mechanical engineering professor, said the team is ready to continue its way toward the top spot.

Russell said the student race car team began in 1997, when a group of mechanical engineering students petitioned the University to compete in FSAE.

FSAE is an international collegiate racing league that invites teams from universities across the world to come together to present their cars and compete for bragging rights.

By Aaron Sweet
Members of the UNM Lobo Racing Team, Senior Kurt Peterson, left, Aaron Holets and Junior Mary Hollowell work together on mounts that will hold the motor to the steel frame of what will become the teams 2014 race car at the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers Series.

Students spend three semesters designing, building and testing — everything it takes to get the car ready to compete.

Administrators at UNM liked the idea of having an alternative to the senior design courses for the engineering students and adopted the class in 1998, Russell said.

“Our course is solely there to build a race car,” Russell said.
The nearly two years of hands-on work experience gained through the course gives students an edge when entering the job market, he said.

The course itself is designed to operate just like a professional race team. Students are responsible for everything from designing and building to testing and driving.

“These are highly dedicated individuals in this course. If you don’t have highly dedicated individuals involved, things don’t get done,” Russell said.

Once the car is built, students compete in individual time trials. A vote is held and the best six are chosen to be the competition drivers.

Students drive every step of the project. Aerodynamics, engine, chassis, drive train, suspension; everything is designed with a student at the wheel.

“We know we’re going to pass those things before we get there, we are a good team,” Russell said.

Once at the four-day competition, every detail of the car must be perfect. Each car is thoroughly inspected. A braking test, a tilt table and a noise test are a few of the hundreds of tests the car must undergo in order to compete.

Most of the 80 cars that will race around the track in the Lincoln series are from North and South America although some European countries have entered in the past.

However, the course isn’t just about the competition – success is measured by the quality of experiences gained by the students involved.

Kyle Robertson, the team’s system engineer and a UNM senior, said he is in charge of making sure the design process runs smoothly. He said the class has given him a level of hands-on experience he didn’t expect to gain in college.

“It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it has taught me so much about myself and how to work with others. I know when I come out of here; I will find a great job,” he said.

Mary Hollowell, one of the program’s future students, was also present. A junior, she plans to enroll in the program next year.

“I want to work on a team for my senior design project, especially on something that I’m passionate about,” Hollowell said.

A motor enthusiast, she said she learns all she can from the seniors working in the garage so that when it is her turn in the driver’s seat, she will be ready.

For further information about the program, visit the UNM Course Catalog available online under the Student Life section of

Fast Facts

Engine Size: Genesis® 80FI 4-stroke snowmobile engine - 2-cylinder, 500cc engine, electronically controlled fuel injection, with 5 valves per cylinder head – custom-designed intake and exhaust.

Weight – 460 lbs (without driver)

Horsepower (with restrictor as required by FSAE competition rules) – 70 hp at 11,000 rpm, using ethanol as fuel.

Transmission/drivetrain - Belt-driven Continuously Variable

Transmission (CVT) – tuned to operate at peak horsepower
0-60 Acceleration Time - 4.0 sec

Top Speed - unimportant as the straights are too short – around 70 mph

60-0 Braking distance - brakes at 1.5gs - never tested to a full stop as that is not a requirement

Cornering - 2.0 Gs peak

Aerodynamics - can generate 250 lbs of downforce at 40 mph

Materials: Frame – welded 4130 high-strength chromoly space frame
Body, wings and undertray - carbon composite layup
Suspension – 4130 high-strength chromoly steel independent double A-arm