Wreck Racing (Georgia Tech)

Wreck Racing logo

Georgia Tech’s Wreck Racing team is an extracurricular club similar to Formula SAE or EcoCar but which competes in a different event – Grassroots Motorsports magazine’s $2000 Challenge, where teams compete in autocross, drag racing, and concourse judging with a total vehicle budget no greater than the year in dollars (e.g. $2012 for the year 2012). The vehicle and modifications must be purchased within budget, but unneeded parts of the original car may be sold off to recoup money for modifications. Ever heard of 24 Hours of Lemons or Chumpcar? This event is where they got the idea.

Grassroots Motorsports April 2011 issue featuring $2010 Challenge coverage

I had been a Grassroots Motorsports subscriber for a few years, and I was interested in the Wreck Racing team before even attending the school, having seen their 2009 magazine feature and $2010 Challenge win. They were one of only two college teams that had competed in the event.

While on the team, I worked on two different budget race cars. The first was the GRM $2010 Challenge-winning Mazda Miata, which uses a Lexus 1UZ-FE V8 engine. I helped prep the car for its 2011 Ultimate Track Car Challenge, where we installed a new supercharger and aftercooler system, converted to fuel system to E85, and added a giant rear wing.

Wreck Racing Miata at the 2011 GRM Ultimate Track Car Challenge (VIrginia International Raceway)
Wreck Racing Miata at the 2011 UTCC at VIR

In the following two years, I got even more involved with the second car.



I was elected the club’s vice president at the end of 2011, and for the next year, we focused on our new $2012 Challenge car, a 1969 MG Midget. In 2012, I developed and fabricated a custom front and rear suspension using Hyabusa motorcycle coilovers and rocker arms. I also assembled custom 3-link rear-end geometry with adjustable anti-squat.

MG front-suspension CAD model
MG front suspension (CAD model)
MG rear-suspension geometry
MG rear-suspension geometry

I led the chassis design and modification (the front half of the frame was completely hacked off and redone), including designing a custom roll cage.

MG frame transformation
MG front frame transformation

I also helped integrate the new powertrain, a 2JZ-GE inline six engine with a GM Powerglide (later changed to TH350) and shortened Ford 8.8 rear axle.

Machining the MG's Ford 8.8 axle
Machining the longer side of the asymmetric 8.8 axle before re-welding the end

The ultimate plan for this car would be turbocharging the 2JZ, but for 2012, getting the chassis rolling and the engine running naturally aspirated was a big enough accomplishment.

MG parking-lot testing on Georgia Tech's campus
Parking-lot testing on Georgia Tech’s campus

At the end of 2012, I became the team’s lead engineer. Around this time, I was also invited to guest-write an article about Wreck Racing on Speedhunters.com, a car-enthusiast website featuring the best car photography in the world. Check out the article here.



In 2013, we performed several upgrades to the Miata for its final Ultimate Track Car showing, including a new R154 manual transmission, coilovers, a front splitter, and smaller supercharger pulley.

Wreck Racing Miata at the 2013 GRM Ultimate Track Car Challenge at Virginia International Raceway
Wreck Racing Miata at the 2013 UTCC at VIR

A more detailed account of the Wreck Racing V8 Miata project can be read in the official 2011 Build Diary and 2013 Build Diary (I created the latter one). For a high-level rundown of the vehicle’s sub-systems, click here to view the Miata Spec Sheet.

As for the MG, we finally assembled the forced-induction system, using a junkard turbocharger from a natural-gas bus, a custom exhaust manifold made from a sliced-up header, and a custom aftercooler.

MG exhaust manifold fabrication
Exhaust manifold fabrication from scrap junkyard headers

I designed and built a custom wiring harness, using repurposed wire from a junkard Miata harness (same car we took the MG’s new front-suspension crossmember from). I enjoy projects like this that require meticulous attention to detail. Click here to view the comprehensive schematics I made for the MG.

Harvesting wire from the scrap Miata harness and the MG's new ignition-system schematic
Left: Harvesting wire from the scrap Miata harness | Right: The MG’s new ignition-system schematic
Assembling the MG's new wire harness
Assembling the MG’s new electrical system

I assembled a one-off speed-density EFI system, consisting of components like Ford EDIS wasted-spark ignition coils and igniter, Toyota injectors, a Saab wastegate actuator, and a GM boost control solenoid.

MG VR sensor and trigger wheel made from negative spaces in crank pulley
VR-sensor trigger wheel made by adding negative spaces to crank pulley
MG Wiring and Electronics
MG’s finished switch panel and electronics, laid out with easy diagnostic access in mind.

I created a turbo-matching and injector-sizing MATLAB simulation to assess turbocharger efficiency and fueling needs, applying all the calculations I learned in my IC engines class and half a dozen turbocharging books. Click the below image of the output graphs to visit the GitHub repo and read the code:

Output graphs from the MG turbo simulator

After assembling the new EFI system and vehicle wiring harness, I tuned the new engine management system – a solder-it-yourself DIYAutoTune MegaSquirt kit – dialing in the fuel and ignition tables with both road tuning and several dyno sessions. We were fortunate and grateful that a sponsor, Forged Performance, gave us access to their dyno and even let me operate it myself during our tuning sessions.

MG dyno tuning at Forged Performance
MG dyno tuning at Forged Performance

I’ve documented the whole project in much more detail in the official 2012-2013 Wreck Racing MG Build Diary. And for a high-level rundown of the vehicle’s sub-systems, click here to view the MG Spec Sheet.



This club gives engineering students experience with design, simulation, prototype fabrication, testing, and project management while still in school, better preparing them for the same challenges they’ll be solving in their careers.

MG aftercooler thermal analysis
MG aftercooler thermal analysis

Many other less-obvious lessons presented themselves to those in the club leadership. It was a constant struggle keeping a strictly-volunteer workforce engaged and active on top of their academic workload. I saw myself and my peers invest hours helping new members get started on a project, only to never see them again. Every day, there was a balance to be struck between short-term expedience and long-term club growth. But still other members found their passion and took ownership over projects when given the chance.

Replacing the MG's engine


Another challenge was maintaining team (and my own) morale despite the constant setbacks our combination of restricted budget and moonshot projects doomed us to.

Holding up a broken connecting rod from the Miata's oil pan
A broken con rod from the Miata

Despite the challenges, I consider my time in Wreck Racing one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, working on such ambitious projects with good friends and helping many newbies start on their journey to full-on car geek.

MG and Miata in front of the shop


After graduating from Georgia Tech, I went on the road with a professional race team, touring the NASCAR Cup circuit. Click here to see the next chapter in my racing journey.