New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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NYU Motorsports: The masters of mettle and moving parts

From Tandon students tirelessly engineering cars to Stern and CAS students cold-calling organizations for support, here’s how NYU Motorsports persists in its never-ending race to achieve automotive excellence.
A+group+of+men+wearing+jackets+stand+behind+a+vehicle.+One+man+sits+on+the+front+tire+of+the+vehicle+holding+an+engine+part.
Alisha Goel
(Alisha Goel for WSN)

NYU Motorsports, a Vertically Integrated Project of engineers, creators and entrepreneurs based at the Tandon School of Engineering, transforms motor racing into full-fledged business ventures. NYU Motorsports builds race cars to compete in off-road and formula races held by the Society of Automotive Engineers International against other American and international universities. 

The motorsports club consists of several operations such as suspension and steering to enhance vehicle performances, frame and ergonomics for safety and comfort and business and outreach to secure funding. 

(Alisha Goel for WSN)

Since 2016, NYU Motorsports has been a strong contender at BajaSAE, an off-road race held by SAE International to test terrainability and water resistance of student designs. The club historically makes it past the first round and competes with around 40 of the top teams for the championship. 

This coming May, NYU Motorsports will be competing in the BajaSAE race in Williamsport, Pennsylvania with new carbon composite and steel upgrades to its car. The club is also forming a business pitch for the case competition segment as well as leveraging sponsors and recruiting drivers and crew. 

Here’s a behind-the-scenes of one of NYU’s most complex clubs and the intricate steps its students take to prepare for the upcoming competition season.

A man with a long sleeve green shirt, a welding mask and a pair of black leather gloves welds a piece onto a metal pipe. The welding tool emits a white spark.
(Alisha Goel for WSN)

Engineering

NYU Motorsports analyzes existing car parts to improve their performance from previous races. The team will recycle the chassis from last year’s BajaSAE in Oregon and upgrade its drivetrain and body for better drive.

“We’re redesigning all of it to be more efficient, which includes remanufacturing the gearbox, training the transfer case, incorporating a new front differential and more,” drivetrain lead Mubeen Zainul said.

(Alisha Goel for WSN)

The team’s drivetrain starts with a 10-horsepower internal combustion engine — following the engine regulations by BajaSAE. The organizer caps the power of the engine but allows competitors to design the drivetrain that delivers the engine power to the tires.

“Your choice of distributing that power to the tires is where teams can get creative,” Ufuk Akpinar, one of the club’s design leads, said. “This car has a four-wheel drive system, and we have a gearbox that we develop in-house which sends power to all four wheels.”

A close-up of an engine of a vehicle
(Alisha Goel for WSN)

A four-wheel drive system, which allows the engine to directly power both the front and back tires, yields better handling for the driver and more traction with the ground — both of which are crucial for off-road racing. 

While improving the drivetrain — which includes the motor, gearbox and differentials — makes the car go faster, the suspension is what keeps the car steady on bumpy terrains. The team designs intricate shock-absorbing mechanisms with springs and dampers to ensure a smoother ride. 

“Suspension is basically the heart of the car and the car’s contact patch,” Akpinar said. “You start from suspension and build up because it’s how the car corners, turns, jumps and takes bumps. So if your suspension design is not great, even if you have the rest of the car built brilliantly, it won’t work well.”

A small, metal vehicle is parked in the middle of a cluttered workshop. The vehicle has a welded cage and “41” in translucent orange letters. A fire extinguisher is visible within the car.
(Alisha Goel for WSN)

Once the design is nearly complete, the team makes the trek to Northeast Off-Road Adventures in Ellenville, New York every semester for test runs. 

“Since NYU doesn’t have a racetrack nearby, it’s actually pretty hard for us to get testing days in,” BajaSAE design lead Maria Jose Valbuena Mendoza said. “So we have to make sure our design is really good before renting a truck to go all the way there.”

One of the least talked about but critical parts of engineering a car is electronics. Electronics optimize data collection of lap times, temperatures and GPS coordinates, allowing the team to communicate with the driver and monitor vehicle behavior.

“For the past two years, we’ve used a deck system, which sends data to a web server, and then we can see what’s going on during a race,” BajaSAE electronics lead Arthur Barbosa said. “We also need a little LCD screen for the driver so he or she can see the car’s position on the map of the racetrack, along with how long each lap took on the field.”

Many tool kits, spare parts and open cardboard boxes is scattered around a workspace with large windows. The space has a blue desk with a whiteboard and several small storage cabinets. The space also has two desk chairs and multiple trolleys for storage.
(Alisha Goel for WSN)

Business

NYU Motorsports also takes pride as a team of real-world problem solvers. Alongside races, SAE competitions host the Business Presentation segment, a scenario-based challenge for students to pitch their designs to aftermarket manufacturers.

For BajaSAE in Williamsport, teams will tackle real-world issues such as the production shortage in semiconductors — a chemical component that allows electronics to conduct electrical currents — in the U.S., dealing with a less-than-easy case to be made for cars’ safety and stability controls. Teams will present their findings to the SAE Board of Directors, a panel of vice presidents from prestigious investment and engineering firms.

“The beauty of motorsports is that it tackles a bunch of different facets in different industries,” business lead Dylan Thompson said. “You’re not just developing hard engineering skills, but also investment banking and private equity skills because we teach a lot of financial modeling to students.”

To strengthen NYU Motorsports’ business expertise, the club is hosting a speaker series this semester with investment bankers specializing in the automotive industry so students can learn more about the business behind building cars. 

“We don’t want this club to just be a motorsports team, but also one of professional development as well,” Thompson said.

A room with white cement walls and exposed red pipes. The room houses a variety of tools and hardware. In the room is a gray table with yellow legs holding an electric saw and pipes. The room also has shelves and cabinets. There is a pile of towels on top of several protective face shields.
(Alisha Goel for WSN)

Finance

Although NYU Motorsports’s BajaSAE and FormulaSAE teams initially operated as two separate Vertical Integrated Projects at Tandon, NYU merged the teams due to funding cuts. “The merger set an unprecedented financial strain on the club, slashing our administrative funding in half,” commercial lead Melina Peimanidis said.

While the BajaSAE car requires $50,000 to $60,000 in funding, FormulaSAE will require roughly four times that of BajaSAE. This marks the club’s ambitious introduction to FormulaSAE, an SAE International competition that challenges students to design a small formula-style racing car.

To reach the goal, the finance team is focused on raising capital from corporate sponsors such as Hendrick Motorsports and Oracle Red Bull Racing. Whether it’s by cold emailing organizations or scheduling in-person meetings with investors, NYU Motorsports is determined to fund its construction of a FormulaSAE car.

Although formerly known as NYU Tandon Motorsports, NYU Motorsports is no longer just a Tandon club. With a membership of almost 80 people and still looking to expand, there’s a place in the club for any student who shares a resilient love for motorsports.

“A lot of people might assume that we’re just engineering majors, but we have people from Tisch, Steinhardt, CAS, Stern, you name it,” finance lead Jay Shah said. “We’ve opened up to all different majors because NYU’s diversity is what makes us incredibly strong.”

A close-up of the side of a motor vehicle, where the red number "41" is placed on an iron surface.
(Alisha Goel for WSN)

Contact Andrea Lui at [email protected]

About the Contributors
Andrea Lui, Dining Editor
Andrea Lui is a sophomore at Stern studying Business with concentrations in Finance and Computing & Data Science and a minor in Business of Entertainment, Media and Technology. She developed a profound love for writing while performing poetry, prose and dramatic monologues for over 10 years as a competitive public speaker. At NYU, she's also an Admissions Ambassador and serves as the External Relations Co-Director of the Board of Undergraduate Stern Women in Business. Andrea is on a mission to try every single restaurant in New York City … Check out @lui.andrea on Instagram to see if she succeeds.
Alisha Goel, Multimedia Editor
Alisha Goel (she/her) is a junior majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Integrated Design and Media. When she is not at WSN, she is stressing out on code, reading a long book, watching a movie at AMC with one of the other multimedia editors or creating mildly disturbing art with her photography. You can find her at @03alisha17 on Instagram or email her at [email protected].
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