When Caitlin Bunt ‘14 was growing up, she didn’t realize how big of an impact spending her days at the race track with her dad would make on her career.
But when she realized motorsports was where she wanted to be, she wouldn’t let anything get in her way. One step at time she did some racing herself, found herself at Kettering and, most recently, landed a job of a lifetime to finally break into the motorsport industry.
Bunt beat out nine other American finalists to become the U.S. winner of the Infiniti Engineering Academy, which awarded her the career opportunity she’s been hoping for in Formula 1. She will spend six months working at the Renault Sport F1 team's headquarters in Enstone, UK and six months working at Infiniti's European Technical Center in Cranfield. She will play a key role in the ongoing transfer of technical knowledge and expertise between Renault Sport and Infiniti.
“It’s pretty incredible to drop everything and go after this job. I’ve been around motorsports my whole life,” Bunt said. “I probably feel relief more than anything because I worked really hard for this. I earned this. Finally I made it.”
This was no small feat. There were 4,000 applicants globally. After an extensive interview process, Bunt was chosen as one of 10 U.S. finalists.
Bunt was the first ever female winner of the Academy. However, that’s not something she focuses on.
“I don’t like to dwell on the fact that I’m a female. I think the best engineers should win regardless of gender,” Bunt said. “It’s good for being a role model to other women in that sense, but it’s not something I think about. They want the best and brightest regardless of the gender.”
For Bunt, winning the competition was the first step to bringing her dream alive.
She grew up with her dad racing a Datsun 240z with the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America). She did most of the engineering and preparatory work on his car before each race in addition to the setup and race strategy at the race track. Bunt was also a driver in SCCA, racing a Datsun 510 and a Formula Continental.
She knew she wanted to work in the motorsport industry, but it didn’t happen right away.
Bunt decided to go to Kettering University to get the education and work experience she would need to gain experience. She came to the University with a FIRST Robotics scholarship and was a Mechanical Engineering major with an automotive specialty.
“I came to Kettering because of the co-op program, hands down. Without that experience I wouldn’t be in the place that I am now. I wouldn’t have been able to go straight into these jobs, these roles right away. I wouldn’t have landed such a great job after graduation,” Bunt said.
Her time at Kettering in the classroom taught her some valuable lessons, as well.
“Being put into team projects and designing something and making it work is something Kettering pushed into your learning,” she said. “You take away communication skills and teamwork skills. Working with others in an effective way is something you can take forward wherever you go.”
After Kettering, Bunt worked for 2.5 years at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles as a Transmission Calibration Engineer. Then one day she decided to leave her great job and drop everything to follow her passion in motorsports.
She’s currently completing her dissertation for Oxford Brookes University in the UK, at which point she will receive her master’s degree in Motorsport Engineering.
“Especially in the motorsport industry, if this is what you want to do, you have to keep at it. A lot of it is about having the right application to the right company at the right time,” Bunt said. “Keep going at it. Follow your dreams.”
Bunt’s dissertation should be completed by end of September. Then in November she starts her first six-month placement at either Renault Sport F1 team's headquarters in Enstone, UK or at Infiniti's European Technical Center in Cranfield.
“I will be pushing really hard to secure a full time position with Renault Sport,” Bunt said. “I love the challenge of motorsport. It’s exciting. You have to think very creatively to come up with a solution, something another team doesn’t have. You have to do that in a very short period of time. You have to work as a team and with collaboration to make it work. You have to be at the top of your game in so many areas.”