49ers Racing clinches record-breaking 2nd place overall in international FSAE competition

Categories: General News

Charlotte’s 49ers Racing team finished second overall among 113 of the world’s best teams at this year’s Formula SAE Internal Combustion competition held May 8-11 at Michigan International Speedway. The result is the best in program history, with the team also earning impressive rankings in multiple events. 

  • 2nd place – Overall
  • 3rd place – Autocross
  • 3rd place – Endurance
  • 4th place – Business Preparation
  • 5th place – Skidpad
  • 6th place – Efficiency

“This team’s precise blend of creativity and professionalism helped carry them into the competition and elevate them to their 2nd place finish,” said Jim Fox, Research Operations Manager of the Kulwicki Motorsports Laboratory, who mentored the students throughout the 2023-2024 seasons Formula SAE competition. His lifetime of professional racing industry experience is a unique advantage of 49ers Racing. “Congratulations to these students for raising the bar!”

The internal combustion engine car, designed and built by students who were led by team captain Kayden Hanks, featured an innovative and unusual design, which resulted in a very light, but strong frame. The team completed the car in March and was able to complete approximately 200 miles of testing on it prior to the competition. While the car performed as expected during the competition’s autocross and skidpad events, the team encountered challenges due to the lack of traction for acceleration that was not seen in testing, and a fuel pressure issue that caused a loss of power in the last two laps of the endurance test.

49ers Racing team members stand behind race car
49ers Racing team

“If there was a theme to the week for 49ers Racing, it was that preparation paves the path to success,” said Tyler Stover, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and engineering science who serves as the team’s faculty advisor. “The drivers did an excellent job to adapt and extract all the performance they could.”

SAE International’s university competitions challenge student teams to design, fabricate, develop and compete with formula style vehicles. Geared to support an engineering education, the competition requires performance-based, timed challenges both on- and off-track. Harish Cherukuri, department chair of mechanical engineering and engineering science, emphasized this holistic focus on engineering education and the team readiness for both on and off-track challenges. “The students that worked on this car have been nothing short of exceptional in motivation, drive and hard work,” Cherukuri said.

During the cost judging event, the team was interviewed on a hypothetical case study question to see how well they could incorporate real world economic considerations into their engineering and design process. The team received a perfect score and glowing feedback on the case study response, and excellent scores for documentation.

“As showcased by the ingenuity of our 49ers Racing team, engineers problem solve,” said Rob Keynton, dean of the William States Lee College of Engineering. “We’re proud of these students and their commitment to honoring the legacy of Alan Kulwicki through our tradition of racing.”

Senior members of 49ers Racing team wearing their caps and gowns
Senior members of the 49ers Racing team

While celebrating their record-breaking finish, team members are already looking ahead to the summer, when they will investigate the challenges faced this year and craft a solution to improve next year’s car. 

“We were extremely impressed by the team this year,” said Stover. “They showed remarkable resolve in the face of adversity. Their creativity, work experience, can-do attitude, and work effort made the difference, and all of these traits are carried over by the younger students who will be returning next year.”

Since this year’s competition coincided with Commencement, senior members of the team missed the University Commencement ceremony to attend the racing competition. The team deserves congratulations on a successful college experience. Their dedication to the Kulwicki Motorsports Laboratory and the legacy of 49ers Racing is appreciated. [YouTube video celebrating the senior members of the team]

Charlotte’s 49ers Racing student team members include:

Kayden Hanks (captain)
Simon Sanders (driver controls lead and captain-elect)
Joseph Cranfill (chief engineer)
Ryan Bradley (electronics team lead)
Garrett Lowe (vehicle dynamics team lead)
Samuel Kleinschuster (aerodynamics team lead)
Isaac Polson (powertrain co-lead)
Riddick White (powertrain co-lead)
Rocco Procaccini (business lead)
Baker Cobb (marketing lead)
Evan Andersen

Ben Demosthene
Cameron Gantert
Drew Jasper
Stefan Johansson
Henry Kelleher
Taylor Keske
Hayden Kupka
Colby Leonhardt
Rishabh Ravi
Ryan Taylor
Alex Volmer

Learn more about 49ers Racing by visiting their website, Instagram and Facebook pages.

49ers Racing team member drives race car during competition
49ers Racing team member speaks to judge during competition
49ers Racing team member drives car during competition
49ers Racing team members stand behind racecra
49ers Racing race car pictured with trophies
Closeup of the race car showcasing autographs of 49er Racing team members
49er Racing team pictured with race car