Husker Motorsports prepared for big weekend at Formula SAE Lincoln event

Husker Motorsports prepared for big weekend at Formula SAE Lincoln event

Calendar Icon Jun 14, 2016      Person Bust Icon By Karl Vogel     RSS Feed RSS

The Husker Motorsports team finished ninth at the recent Formula SAE event in Barrie, Ontario. It was the best finish in club history.
The Husker Motorsports team finished ninth at the recent Formula SAE event in Barrie, Ontario. It was the best finish in club history.
After three years with the Husker Motorsports Formula SAE team, Sam Buller has learned there's no such thing as being too prepared.

A week of "all-nighters" before a recent competition in Barrie, Ontario, helped the UNL engineering students to an ninth-place finish out of 28 teams, the highest in the Formula team's history. It also marked the first time the team finished an endurance race, taking eighth place.

"This year, before the Canada trip, was the same as last year – we built the car, drove it around the parking lot here in Lincoln a few times and quickly packed it up and left," said Buller, the technical director and chief engineer for the UNL Formula SAE team. "This year, the difference was we stayed up every single night as late as we could, working to get the car to be as good as it could be. It ended up paying off."

With the season-finale at Lincoln Airpark this week (June 15-18), Buller knows that preparation will be even more important, especially with this year's car having a brand-new design and no parts recycled from past year's vehicles, "except for maybe one or two components."

The Lincoln event, which draws at least 80 university teams from around the world, is held at Lincoln Airpark and is renowned for its wide-open spaces and the heat that builds up on the concrete surfaces at the airport. With a large field of competitors and a blistering sun likely beating down on the track, Buller knows organization and precision will be important.

"At Lincoln, it's all about the timing. You can see lines of cars 20 or 30 cars long just to get into Friday's dynamic events (acceleration and skid pad)," Buller said. "Being strategic about how and when you go to those events and having everything ready is key. If you miss one thing, you get sent to the back of the line and it could literally be hours before you get another turn."

And getting the lucky draw in the assigned numbers for technical inspections helps, too, Buller said. That's especially weighing on the minds of the Husker team, which struggled on Friday of last year's event with a nearly catastrophic problem.

"This year, we got an early tech number – 12 – and that's going to be huge. In the past, we've had tech numbers of 48 or 50, all the way back to the end. Getting an early number and getting through it on the first day means we can get to acceleration and skid pad at the beginning of Friday," Buller said. "Having those done and out of the way, as long as you don't shear clutch pins or something like that, you're sitting pretty well."

The team's performance in Friday's final event, the autocross, will determine placing for Saturday's endurance race – where each of the 80 teams attempts to run as many laps as possible within 30-minutes. The slower cars in the autocross run in Saturday's early endurance session, with the faster cars going in the heat of the afternoon.

Buller said getting a slot in the later session is preferred, but that comes with plusses and minuses.

"A hot track means you have sticky tires and won't be sliding around as much, but overheating is always an issue in Lincoln," Buller said. "Finishing the endurance race seems like it would be easy, but even in Canada, only eight of the 28 teams finished the endurance. People were blowing engines and wheels were falling off, just crazy stuff going on."
With the positive energy from a strong finish in Canada, Buller said Husker racing fans will have plenty to cheer for if they come out to the event, especially an attractive new body design.

The metallic scarlet red car has all the expected sponsor logos and the Husker Motorsports name on the side, but it also has a familiar face on both sides of the cockpit – a gold-and-black logo that screams Ferrari but instead features a silhouette of Herbie Husker.

"It's the most-gorgeous car we've ever built, miles different. It's got a '60s or '70s Ferrari-esque look, especially with the gold wheels," Buller said. "We were turning heads when we rolled into the paddock at the Molson Centre; every single person turned and lots of people told us our car had the best body there."

When the event is over, the Husker Motorsports team will begin preparing for its 2017 schedule and will turn the team over to the underclass students. Buller, who recently graduated with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, and the other seniors are leaving to enter the professional world. Buller, however, thinks there will be plenty of gas left in the tank for next year.

"This year is the strongest team we've had since I've been part of it," said Buller, who this July starts a job with Honda in Raymond, Ohio. "We have about 35 or so on the team, including a lot of seniors and a lot of freshmen.

"The downside is that the seniors are graduating and we're losing all that knowledge. But we've built a really good car and keeping that momentum will be what drives the future."


When: Wednesday-Saturday.
Where: Lincoln Airpark. Spectators asked to enter the facility at the gate near NW 34th and West Luke streets.
Cost: Admission is free.
Spectator policy and event guides can be found at

Events schedule
Wednesday: Tech inspection
Thursday: Static events (business and costs presentations, design) and dynamic events practice.
Friday: Dynamic events – skid pad, acceleration and autocross.
Saturday: Endurance and fuel efficiency.

Follow the Husker Motorsports Formula SAE team on Facebook and follow Nebraska Engineering on Facebook and Twitter for more updates this week.