Four AE students share in Illini Motorsports championship


Julie Park and Debra Levey Larson

team photo at May 2022 competition
Illini Motorsports team members at the May 2022 competition. Maverick Emerson, bottom row, third from left. Sid Sudhir, middle row, white Illinois t-shirt. Albert Kwan and  Tatiana Michel Villalobos were not at this competition.

For the first time in its 40-year history, the team from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign won both competitions in the 2022 Formula SAE National Collegiate series—finishing as the national champions with nearly a clean sweep of first-place trophies.

At the final event this month at the Michigan International Speedway, the team dominated the approximately 60 teams from across North America. Their score of 954 points out of 1,000 was the second highest score in the history of the Formula SAE competition.

Tatiana Michel Villalobos in UIUC's winning racecar.
Tatiana Michel Villalobos in UIUC's winning racecar

Four AE students worked on this year’s entry. Maverick Emerson was the aerodynamics lead. He designed the front wing and electronics cover. Sid Sudhir served as the aerodynamics project lead. Tatiana Michel Villalobos worked on the chassis and designed the headrest. Albert Kwan was the team captain this year. Specifically, he helped with the seat and monocoque design and manufacturing. 

Emerson said an aerodynamics subsystem challenge was that the team had to make the mold for the car’s undertray/diffuser in-house rather than outsourcing the manufacturing of it.

“We had to split the mold into five parts and bond it together, which took a lot longer than expected and added much more complexity to this project,” he said. “Due to the delays caused by our manufacturing setback, the undertray could not be run for our May competition. We finished it in time but decided to wait to run it to ensure the undertray would not cause interference or reductions in our endurance reliability testing for June. Also, our two top-tier drivers were happy with the balance of the car going into May and we didn't want to change the car's handling bias right before our competition. This was another reason to wait—to allow the drivers more time to get used to the difference in grip levels and vehicle balance.”

Sid Sudhir at the track.
Sid Sudhir at the track.

Sudhir said, in addition to technical contributions, he and Michel Villalobos tackled unanticipated  fundraising for the project.

“We had to embark on another round of funding while still keeping our foot flat on the pedal in the manufacturing department,” he said. “Thankfully, we were able to get ourselves through to the June competition, but this sort of exercise was a good reminder that successfully completing an engineering project is much more than simply designing something on a computer.”

At the first event, held in May, facing competition from 89 other universities, the team, also known as Illini Motorsports, was named the top overall performer, finishing first in the Design and Endurance categories and second in Cost.

In addition to first place overall, the Illinois team also boasted:

1st in Vehicle Design (a series of grueling assessments and evaluations of each team and their vehicle design decisions by leading industry experts)

1st in Acceleration (straight line hard-down 0-60)

1st in Endurance (a 22-lap race with one driver change and automatic disqualification on vehicle component failure, loss of fluids, etc.)

1st in Autocross (single lap, sharp twists and turns around cones, fastest lap time to win)

2nd in Skid Pad (behind Purdue)

Second place overall went to Purdue and third place to the University of Texas at Arlington.