Duke Motorsports Team Breaks School Record Again


The Duke Motorsports Team this year included 16 members, including 13 from the Pratt School of Engineering.

The Duke Motorsports team has outdone itself yet again. The formula-style racecar the student team designed and built over the last two school years came in 23rd out of the 130 teams entered in the 2007 Formula SAE competition, beating previous winners Cornell University and the University of Texas, as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgia Tech. The team also ranked fifth in fuel economy.

The team had set its previous record at its last competition in 2005, when it finished 31st out of some 140 teams. (Download a complete list of this year's participants and the competition results.)

The successful finish came despite several technical issues throughout the months leading up to competition, said James Montupet, a mechanical engineering and economics major from St. Louis who worked on the Duke car's frame and suspension.

"Roughly one hour before we left for Detroit, we had an engine failure," he said. "This forced our engine team, led by Will Gardner, to quickly swap the engine onsite before tech inspection."

During the competition, the team had other issues, ranging from mismatched threads on a brake fitting to a broken shifter.

"The team worked exceptionally well and efficiently to fix these problems," Montupet said. "It was extremely stressful, but nevertheless an excellent learning experience."

After some last minute adjustments, the team did exceedingly well with the fuel economy portion of the final endurance driving event. After the race, drivers immediately return the cars to the fuel depot, where the amount of fuel left in each tank is determined, explained Gardner, a mechanical engineering major from New Orleans.

"One of our drivers, Alex Berghorst, was present with the woman who was weighing the gas cans, and said she was so surprised with how little fuel we used, she had to weigh it again before recording the amount," said Gardner.

"The way we tune our engine does take into account using the optimum amount of fuel per a given engine load and RPM," he added.

The team expects another good showing next year, with only one graduating senior leaving the team. The team's major goal in the future is to enter a car in the competition every year instead of every two. To that end, design leaders will complete most, if not all, of the design work for next year's car this summer, so that manufacturing can begin when school starts in the fall.