Fueled by innovation, ingenuity and history, NovaRacing speeds to best-ever finish
By Yasmine Iqbal
With bated breath, Villanova’s NovaRacing team listened as the top 10 overall finishers were announced at the international Formula SAE competition at Michigan International Speedway on May 21. When the three-day competition ended, they knew their point totals for each event, but they had no idea where their car stood overall.
Minutes later, the jubilant team converged on the stage as NovaRacing was named the second-place winner—their best finish ever—in a field of 99 collegiate competitors. “When they announced we had gotten second place in the overall competition, I was shocked,” says chief engineer Christina Maffattone ’22 COE, who led the team with captain Michael Blaney ’22 COE. “I still get chills when I think about it. I am so incredibly proud of my team.”
Over the course of three days, their car had faced off against student-designed vehicles from around the world in a series of events, both off track and on track against the clock. They placed in the top 10 for design—a first in the history of NovaRacing. “We learned something from every other NovaRacing team, so this felt like a celebration of not only our work, but the efforts of the 12 teams that had come before us,” Blaney says.
Further successes followed as four student drivers put the car through its paces in several dynamic events, including acceleration, fuel economy, skid pad, autocross and endurance. The team placed a priority on reliability, drivability and performance—in that order.
“We learned something from every other NovaRacing team, so this felt like a celebration of not only our work, but the efforts of the 12 teams that had come before us.”
Michael Blaney ’22 COE
The work began for this year’s team back in spring 2021, when more than 50 students came together to design, build and test a Formula-style race car. Blaney and Maffatone led the team’s efforts to design the car according to the exacting standards of SAE International (formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers).
Andrew Frohock ’23 VSB led the NovaRacing business team of eight students who helped manage the $55,000 budget and interacted with sponsors, including Lockheed Martin, which made its facility in Valley Forge, Pa., available for test drives. Other sponsors included Axalta, Siemens, Boeing, and local body and manufacturing shops that donated funds, services and equipment.
But really the work began in 2007, when Gerard “Jerry” Jones, PhD, ’72 COE, professor of Mechanical Engineering and team adviser, gave the go-ahead to the first NovaRacing team. He still enjoys working with this University-level organization, which attracts students from the College of Engineering as well as the Villanova School of Business and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“Students have the opportunity to develop a design/build/test skillset as well as create business plans and solicit and interact with team sponsors,” Dr. Jones says. “It’s real-world training.”