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NovaRacing Delivers Strong Performance at Michigan International Speedway

Nova Racing—Villanova University’s Formula SAE team

Since 2008, the members of NovaRacing—Villanova University’s Formula SAE team—have been traveling to Brooklyn, Michigan, each May for the Formula SAE competition at Michigan International Speedway. Over several days, the car that the team spends a year conceiving, designing, fabricating and testing competes against more than 100 others from colleges and universities around the world. In 2019—with a car dedicated to the memory of the late Dean Gary A. Gabriele who served as the team’s advisor—NovaRacing once again performed admirably, placing 20th overall out of nearly 140 teams.

SAE International’s Formula competition provides students with the real-world challenges of systems engineering, design and problem solving, along with the teaming challenges of collaboration and cooperation. Each year, teams are required to start at square one (previous years’ cars cannot be reused), working under the assumption that a manufacturing firm has engaged them to produce a prototype racecar for evaluation as a production item. The challenge is to design and fabricate a car that best meets the client’s goals and intents as described on the SAE website:

At the Michigan event, cars are judged in a series of static events: design, cost and presentation, and dynamic events: acceleration, autocross, skid-pad and endurance. Each event has specified minimum acceptable performance levels that are reflected in the scoring equations. This year, NovaRacing’s results were as follows: 

  • 5th place in acceleration
  • 10th in sales presentation
  • 15th in endurance
  • 28th in fuel efficiency
  • 28th in cost
  • 42nd in autocross
  • 45th (tie) in design
  • 50th in skid-pad

In placing 20th overall, Dr. Gerard “Jerry” Jones, Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research and advisor to the NovaRacing team, noted, “This was a very good performance considering the tight schedule and not much track testing for the car before the race.”

Incoming team captain Christopher Auslander ’20 CpE said: “We learned a lot from this year’s car, VU11, including the importance of proper management and planning and just how important a cohesive team can be. The members of our team were and are very dedicated and committed to making a great car, even through difficult design challenges.” Noting the excitement around VU12, he added, “Our goal for next year is to improve our car’s performance by adding a new aerodynamic package. This will help our drivers with handling, control and speed around corners. We are also looking to improve our general engineering design process with improved documentation practices.”

Rex Hamilton, a member of the Engineering Advisory Board who joined the team in Michigan, pointed out a number of inequities among the competing teams that included time off from school to build their cars, government funding for international competitors and more advanced technology. He said, “Villanova did amazingly well against these odds.” His son Louis ‘20 ME, one of NovaRacing’s drivers, had a particularly rewarding experience. In addition to placing 15th in his endurance drive, Louis so impressed a representative from Tesla that he was interviewed and offered a job on the spot.

Representing every engineering discipline, as well as students from the Villanova School of Business, members of the NovaRacing team included: captain James Morgan ’19 ME, incoming team captain Chris Auslander ’20 CpE, Michael Blaney ’21 ME, James Britt ’20 CpE, Aarya Deb ’21 ME, Peter Dethlefs ’19 EE, Andrew Feiner ’19 ChE, John Flynn ’19 ME, Harrison Freon ’19 ME, Louis Hamilton ’20 ME, Nicholas Kallan ‘19 VSB, Sindi Kulla ’22 VSB, Bridget LaSala ’21 CE, Christina Maffattone ’21 ME, Devin McCartney ’20 CE, James Morgan ’19 ME, Trevor Murray ’21 EE, Steven Nigro ’21 ME, Justin Pellis ’20 ChE, Samantha Sandler ’20 ME, Carina Silvermoon ’19 CLAS, Nick Villano ’21 ME and Carleton Ward ’20 ME.

Auslander notes that NovaRacing is looking for engineers who are hoping to apply their skills to a real engineering project, as well as business students who can help grow the team’s publicity and connection with sponsors. To learn more, contact him at

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