Interview: FSAE Michigan

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Ryan and I’ve been on GFR since the fall of 2011. I showed up to a welcome evening as a sophomore and introduced myself to some of the team. From there on I started showing up to every test day, helping the team and learning as much as I could. I just graduated with degrees in German and Economics.


How many times have you been to FSAE Michigan?

This was my fourth trip to Michigan with GFR. Surprisingly, each year I have made the trip by car! It takes us about 38 hours each way from Corvallis, Oregon to Brooklyn, Michigan.


What is your role in the team?

I’ve had a couple different roles on the team the last few years. I’ve been an autocross and endurance driver on the team since 2012, and after gaining some experience on the team I started to get into the various marketing aspects. By now I do a little bit of everything non-technical; sponsorship, marketing, social media, video production, business presentation, and general team organization. It’s really been a lot of fun and a great learning experience in every way.


How did your disciplines go?

In Michigan this year I was only active in autocross and endurance. I stepped aside from the business presentation for this event to provide assistance to a newer student, my brother actually! The BP team did a really great job in Michigan. In autocross and endurance we weren’t as fortunate. We cut it close on time for autocross and the event ended while I was in the re-run lane for my second lap. Without having the chance to improve my time, we had to settle for third place behind Graz and Stuttgart. There’s no doubt the time was there to take first place. Endurance just didn’t go our way either. The weather rained and hailed on and off all day, making it a guessing game for teams as to what tire the officials were going to declare we needed. We ended up running late in the day when the track was still very wet and we struggled with the handling. It was fairly obvious compared to the other quick teams on track that we could barely keep up. Lessons learned for next time.


What’s the best part of FSAE Michigan?

The best part of Michigan is walking through the paddock and seeing everyone’s new car. With the exception of the European teams, who race last year’s model, it’s fun walking around and checking out all the new designs since it’s the first competition of the summer.


Anything not that great about Michigan?

Michigan definitely improved several aspects of the competition this year, as some of the officials visited Formula Student Germany last summer and implemented some changes. That was great to see. But Michigan lacks a little bit of the camaraderie between teams, there’s no central campground for all the teams to get together at the end of the day. So I’d say the atmosphere there could be improved somehow, there’s plenty of campground out there where we stay! The weather is often crummy though, teams probably stay away for that reason.


What did the team learn at FSAE Michigan?

I think we learned a lot, about ourselves and how to improve before Europe. We had several new students step up and play a big role this year, I think they learned what it takes to be successful after Michigan. And it’s going to take a little more preparation if we want to defend our titles in Europe.


What are you looking forward to now?

I’m looking forward to defending our titles in Europe! It’ll be my last trip with GFR this summer so I’m going to enjoy it. We got in some solid testing time since Michigan which is important. I get to present the business plan once again too, and with a new partner this year, my brother! I can’t wait to see how the team does in Austria and Germany.