Logo: University of Southern California

USC Racing On The Move

USC Racing successfully competes in ​all events at ​Formula SAE Lincoln.
By: Arash Zandi
July 02, 2014 —

The USC Racing Team poses with this year's car, Nikki.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!

The USC Racing team competed from June 18 to June 21 at Formula SAE Lincoln (Society of Automotive Engineers) in Lincoln, Neb., one of the numerous competitions in the prestigious Formula SAE collegiate design series. The team’s car, Nikki, participated in all four dynamic events, acceleration, autocross, skid-pad and endurance for the first time since 2003.

“Competing in all races is critical to doing well in the competition overall. It is also a testament to the quality of your car,” said Sean Summers, president of USC Racing and a USC Viterbi mechanical engineering student. “Building a car is one thing, but building one that is reliable enough to make it through the entire competition is another.”

“We were able to enter every event, but not being able to finish that last endurance race was a bit of a heartbreaker,” said Tyler Makin, USC Racing’s former team president and business manager, noting a malfunction with one of Nikki's fuel injectors. “So we left Lincoln a bit disappointed, but knowing that we accomplished quite a bit.”

Nikki was significantly improved from last year’s car. A couple of the most notable major improvements have been the addition of wings for aerodynamics and a steering wheel with an integrated LED display that allows the driver to know everything from speed to RPM to water temperature and oil pressure; and has a color changing shifting indicator. The 35 member team worked extremely hard on building the car, devoting a combined 500 hours a week, according to Summers. Some members spent more time with Nikki than in class.

Nikki, which weighs 485 pounds and can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in only 3.5 seconds, will help USC Racing build a better car. Team members plan to use the car next year to gather critical data and test out new technology and components prior to implementing them on next year's car.

USC Racing secured an impressive 28 sponsors, including GM Design, XRP, Boeing and Chevron, which donated cash, tools, materials, and machining and manufacturing services. The team also won the 14th position in the Business Presentation, which is designed to evaluate their ability to develop and give a comprehensive business case that will convince executives of a mock manufacturing firm that their car can be properly manufactured and marketed.

In more good news, USC Viterbi student Jason Zide, one of Nikki’s Formula SAE drivers, was recently named a winner in the highly competitive Infiniti Performance Engineering Academy.  Zide secured a 12-month engineering stint with Infiniti Red Bull Racing, a Formula One team in the United Kingdom, along with a full salary.

USC Racing members have already turned their attention to the future, hopeful that they will soon come out on top.

"I am very proud of what our team accomplished this year. We're on a promising track, and I am confident that 2015 is going to be a big year for USC Racing," said Summers.

USC Racing would like to thank all of their generous sponsors and donors who not only supported the construction of this year's car, but helped the team grow and progress as an organization. They'd also like to thank their faculty advisers Yann Staelens, Rod Yates, and Geoffrey Shiflett.

If you are interested in keeping up-to-date on the progress of the 2015 car, you can follow the team on Facebook or Twitter.