Going the Distance: ODU’s Monarch Racing Turns up the Effort

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ODU Racing Team’s car in 2016. Photo courtesy of Monarch Racing.

Gabriel Cabello Torres, Technology Editor

This article first appeared in the fall 2022 Mace & Crown magazine issue. 

 

The ODU Racing Team has been in existence for decades and is still going strong. I had the pleasure of speaking with the President of the Monarch Racing team, Bryce Dalton, about his involvement in the team and the team’s plans for this year.

 

Dalton is a sophomore pursuing an engineering degree. He’s been involved since his freshman year and his passion for cars precedes his time at Old Dominion University. “In middle school, my best friend and I got Forza Horizon 3…we both got into cars and have been ever since.” As far as hands-on experience with cars, Dalton stated, “It’s been four years since I got my car, that’s when I really started working on cars.” 

 

As a high school student, Dalton earned two Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certifications. Now, after only a year of being with the FSAE team, he’s the president with drive to make great changes that will push through issues the team has dealt with before.

 

Working on a project as big as the FSAE team is tackling is tough work. It requires effort, teamwork, communication and more. Complications both small and large are sure to arise. The after-effects of the 2020 pandemic are still impacting the team, along with other struggles that arose during the 2021-22 school year. President Bryce commented, “It took forever to get the CNC parts in… We had a bottleneck in manufacturing.” 

 

That wasn’t the only challenge the team faced when building their Formula 1 car for the Spring 2022 semester. They were working on a vehicle without the details behind every decision made to build the car. “The competition has two main categories that we are judged on. One of them is the dynamic events. How the car drives, how the car performs in several different ways. The other is static events. We get judged on the engineering of the car and the cost report of the car. The competition was about one month away and the car was designed by students who were now graduated and gone. We had no information on the car and how it was engineered, or what choices were made, and why. We hadn’t even begun to prepare for a presentation on the car. We still didn’t have all the parts sent into us yet and we decided that even if we could finish the car, it probably wouldn’t be in our best interest to go there.”  

 

Unfortunately, the Monarch Racing team was unable to compete in the annual FSAE Michigan competition in May of 2022. However, things are starting to look up for the team this year now that they are following a new roadmap.

 

What changed? Besides leadership, the team made an important decision not to go to the Michigan competition. “We decided to take another year…to finish the car, which is very nearly finished! The way we’re doing things this year is we’re reverse engineering the car essentially, and then making improvements on what we found out about how it is designed.” 

 

The team now has double the members compared to last semester. Bryce, along with the rest of the SAE team, is determined to make this semester different with a new approach for the vehicle. “[Team One] is working from the inside of the car outwards, so starting with the driver, controls, the safety equipment, that sort of stuff. Team Two will be working from the wheels and tires, brakes, suspension.” 

 

I inquired what makes this approach different from last year’s approach. 

 

“How things have been done in the past…for everybody in the club up until now, was that we had subsystems: one team for brakes, one team for suspension, one team for driver controls, one team for the engine, cooling, and so on. The issue comes when it’s a bare frame, like what is the cooling team going to do without an engine in the car? There were big gaps in what people were doing, and there weren’t really set teams because we didn’t have enough members for there to be set teams and not have people working on certain things.” 

 

[Team One] is working from the inside of the car outwards, so starting with the driver, controls, the safety equipment, that sort of stuff. Team Two will be working from the wheels and tires, brakes, suspension. ”

— Bryce Dalton

 

Keeping comprehensive documentation is another goal the team is dead set on meeting this year; “Keeping things documented is a huge part of what we’re doing this year and it hasn’t been done well previously…which is why we’re in the situation we’re in. So everything we’re doing this year in terms of reverse engineering and improvements is all being pretty meticulously documented.”

 

The team isn’t just full of car enthusiasts and engineers. There are all sorts of talented people pushing the team forward. “We have a treasurer who does our finances who is an accounting major… Business and accounting majors are greatly appreciated. We work with a tight budget and it really is like running a small business.” The team is working to get sponsors and other sources of funds. Currently, the team has a sponsorship with the Tidewater Sports Car Club and participates in autocross events with them. It’s great to see locals aid ODU teams in sharing their love for the art of motorsports. 

 

The many different skill sets and assets possessed by the team help them excel in areas besides engineering. Even if new members have no idea how the car works, the team is still ecstatic to have them. “It should really streamline things and help the new members into knowing all about the car… This is a great opportunity for them to learn and we are more than willing to teach people anything they want to know.” 

 

The team is hopeful and ready to get on track for a strong performance in May 2023. Whatever the outcome is, there is no doubt the team has been revitalized with plenty of new members, new directions, and determined leadership.