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