News Release

Building a Race Car: UC San Diego Student Engineers in Action

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TR-14, The 2014 Triton Racing Car at the Formula SAE competition last year

San Diego, Calif., April 13, 2015 -- In 1997, a group of engineering students from the University of California, San Diego heard about the Formula SAE competition – a student design competition organized by SAE International (formerly Society of Automotive Engineers). The idea behind the competition is that a fictional manufacturing company has contracted a design team to develop a small formula-style race car, which will be evaluated for its potential as a production item.

Intrigued by the challenge, the student group gathered in a garage and put their textbook knowledge to work. With the completion of a race car built from scratch, Triton Racing was born.

Triton Racing is UC San Diego’s Formula SAE team, and it continues to produce cutting-edge race cars for the annual Formula SAE competition, held this year at Lincoln Airpark in Lincoln, Nebraska June 17 to 20.

The competition tests the ability of the students to apply their engineering knowledge and encompasses all aspects of the automotive industry including research, design, manufacturing, testing, developing, marketing, management and finances.

The student-led group at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering grows in numbers and knowledge each year.

Nathaniel Goldberg, a sophomore mechanical engineering student and Director of Public Relations for the team, felt that the process of taking a car from production to competition should be documented on film. He and his teammates are making that happen.

“In a conversation with some of the other guys last year, we realized that we have a story to tell,” said Goldberg. ”We want to share that story with as many people as possible, so we decided to make a documentary.”

With the production of the 2015 car already underway, Goldberg is bringing in filmmaker and UC San Diego student Keita Funakawa to begin work on what he hopes will be an invaluable documentary.

“This year’s car is going to be highly competitive, which is one reason we want to film the process leading up to competition.” said Goldberg.

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The TR-15 chassis, being built in the machine shop at UC San Diego

TR-15 – The 2015 Car

Jon Clements, senior aerospace engineering major at UC San Diego and Vehicle Dynamicist for Triton Racing proposed the idea of a unique rear suspension for this year’s car, called a de Dion tube.

“The de Dion tube keeps both rear tires parallel to the ground at all times, regardless of what the backbone of the car, or chassis, is doing,” said Clements. “This is in contrast to what most cars in this competition use – the double A-arm suspension, which twists the tires with the body of the car. Another advantage is that this suspension allows us to significantly reduce the weight of the chassis by removing the need for suspension mounting points behind the engine.”

The de Dion suspension was used mostly in the 60’s and 70’s on Rovers, race cars, sports cars and coups. It is ideally suited to smooth surfaces such as the runway at the airfield where the competition will take place.

“While there has been more than one Formula SAE car to incorporate a de Dion suspension, it is quite uncommon,” said Goldberg. “There are disadvantages to a de Dion suspension as well, which is why it is rarely used on cars today.”

In a de Dion suspension, there are only two arms and the de Dion tube going to each tire. That means the de Dion tube has to carry bending loads and has to be relatively hefty. In a double A-arm suspension, there are five arms going to each tire; each tube carries only tension or compression loads, so they can weigh less.

In addition to the unique suspension on the 2015 car, the Triton Racing team is adding an aerodynamics kit for the first time – more to come on that in a couple of months.

The team has also been conducting experiments using suspension rods made of carbon fiber instead of steel.

“Carbon fiber suspension components can be lighter and stronger than corresponding steel links, if done correctly,” said Gregorio Ferreiro, aerospace engineering major at UC San Diego and R&D Sublead on the Triton Racing team. “We are testing the strength of the bond between carbon fiber tubes and their aluminum inserts in hopes that we can replace the steel members of the suspension with lighter counterparts.”

Before replacing such important components, however, the team needs to ensure that the carbon fiber parts will perform as expected and can hold up to the rigors of racing.

For more on this year’s team and competition, visit

The Unveiling of TR-15

The unveiling of the 2015 car will take place on May 26 from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. on the Warren Lawn at UC San Diego. Students and sponsors will be able to see the car in person and learn about the 2014-2015 Triton Racing team.

A career fair will be held following the unveiling that gives sponsors the opportunity to network with graduating engineering students from the Jacobs School of Engineering and the Triton Racing team. Engineering students from the Jacobs School are welcome to attend at no cost.

One of the toughest tasks these students are given is securing the funds to build the car and take it – and the team – to the Formula SAE competition. Triton Racing thanks gold level sponsor, Hunter Industries, as well as silver level sponsors UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and MathWorks and bronze level sponsors Mekilect, MagCanica, Inc., Dynojet Research, Inc., F.K. Bearings, BlackTalon and Anacote Corp.

Is your company interested in becoming a sponsor of Triton Racing? Contact

Stay tuned for an update following the unveiling of the TR-15 car!

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The 2014 Triton Racing team at the Formula SAE competition last year


Media Contacts

Brittanie Collinsworth
UC San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation