Five years of FSAE-A

UTS Motorsport electric

December is a time where my newsfeed is full of comp results, congratulations and reflections of the FSAE-A year that was. Teams are either rejoicing in their success or committing to regroup and come back swinging the following year. Some just want to share the mountains of photos that they took during the year but never posted, providing a year-long snapshot that you can flick through in a couple of minutes.

The cycle is always the same, as the competition gets closer, teams start posting more – testing videos, photos of parts being manufactured, a group working on their static presentations. Just as quickly as the content ramps up, so too it starts to fade. In only a few short months, maybe even less for some teams, the cycle begins all over again, because December 2019 really isn’t that far away.

It’s now well past FSAE-A 2018, and the photo galleries and videos have slowed down as students acclimate to normal life. The first few weeks post comp is a glorious time for teams. For a little while, the deadlines are behind them. They can go to bed at a reasonable time and get a full night’s sleep – something that probably didn’t happen much during the lead up to the second weekend of December.

It’s the reflection posts that I like the most. While it’s good to celebrate your achievements, if you don’t stop to think about where you can from then you can’t appreciate where you are now. It’s these posts that inspired me to write this. It’s been five years since my first, and only, FSAE-A as a competitor and so much of what I’ve done since 2013 has been directly shaped by those 18 months.

If it weren’t for UTS Motorsports, I wouldn’t have started volunteering with Supercars. I wouldn’t have met some of the most hardworking and dedicated people I know, who I’m lucky to call my friends. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities to be involved with the Bathurst 12 Hour, RX Aus or the Australian Motor Racing Series (AMRS).

I think I’ve written about this before, but when I think back to when I first stepped on to the track at Werribee, I can still feel the excitement I felt and the moment of, ‘this is what I want to do with my life.’

So much of that week is a blur, but the things I do remember are etched into my memory forever.

The sadness we felt when we thought the engine was cooked on Saturday after the first dynamic events and then the exhilaration when it came back to life.

How confident I was going into Business Presentation, and how deflated I felt when we only came sixth.

The exhaustion of pulling together Design documentation until the early hours of the morning, and the relief when it was all done.

Teaching Sylvie how to drive manual through the dormitory carpark. The whole team staying in a dorm with two other university’s teams. Everyone working together to get shit done and hoping for the best outcome at the end of the weekend.

Even now I miss that. Walking through the pits at Winton in 2018, I wished, just for a second, to be able to go back and do it all over again.

I joined UTS Motorsports my first year of uni. I wanted to be involved and feel like I belonged to something. My first two-and-a-bit years of college in the States were not what I had always hoped they would be.

When I started at UTS, I promised myself that I would have the university experience I always wanted and would make my studies more of a priority than I made them before.

I had never heard of Formula SAE before finding the UTS team on the university’s website. I knew nothing about it other than you got to build a race car and compete against other universities at the end of the year. I reached out to the team, not really sure what I could offer since I struggle to add 2+2 most days and to build something like a car, I imagined, required a lot of math.

Luckily for me, they needed business students.

I dropped into the workshop a few days before classes started in 2013, and they couldn’t get rid of me for the rest of the year.

If you’re not familiar with the competition format, there are four dynamic and three static events designed to test the students’ understanding of everything that goes into making a competitive race car. One of those events is a Shark Tank-style presentation where you have 10 minutes to pitch your business model and car design to a panel of investors to convince them to give you money to bring your concept to life.

I only attended one comp as a member of my team.

There were a lot of team members graduating or who had made the decision to not be active members of the team the following year due to final projects and other academic commitments the following year and nothing was quite the same. I wasn’t enjoying it anymore and until that point, I had always been someone who just kept going and didn’t know when to give in, even if the situation was no longer a healthy or positive one. Leaving in the middle of the year was a tough decision because I felt like I was letting the team, and myself down.

I made some great friends in 2013 and had to learn to separate the two things – the friendships would still be there even if the team weren’t. That was probably the most challenging lesson to learn because would we still be friends without the team in common? The relationships did change, but the friendships never went away.

I flitted in and out of FSAE-A for the next few years. I attended a few comps as a spectator to cheer on UTS Motorsports as they changed from combustion to electric and settled into the new location at Calder Park.

At the end of 2017, thanks to a random series of events, I was introduced to someone who helps organise the Presentation event. We kept in touch over the coming months, and when it was time to start pulling together volunteers for 2018, I jumped at the chance to judge the Presentation event.

The calibre of the presentations and the effort that went into putting them together blew me away. Most of the teams seemed better prepared and much more on their game then when I was in their shoes five years before.

In 2018, my comp experience came full circle, and I’m eager to see what challenges and opportunities 2019 brings for me, the competition and the teams. With its new home at Winton Raceway, I see nothing but big things ahead for our Australasian competition.