Caitlin Bunt ‘14 always knew a job in motorsports was her dream, and she didn’t let anything get in her way.
The fast pace, the adrenaline and thinking on her feet drew her into the industry. At the beginning of the year, her dream became a reality as she accepted a full time position as a performance engineer with Team Rahal Letterman Lanigan, an auto racing team in Columbus, Ohio.
“The dream job is out there. You have to want it enough to make the sacrifices necessary to get there. Someone coming from a Kettering University background is prepared to achieve their dream job. They just have to want it enough to follow through,” Bunt said. “Team RLL is a good team of people. I’m excited to work with them and learn from them.”
As a performance engineer for the team, Bunt’s job is to extract the maximum performance of the car as it competes in endurance races, including the upcoming 24-hour race at Daytona International Speedway. She works with the driver to go over data and analytics to drive and position the car so it gets the best performance possible.
“For the entire 24 hours, we have a live stream of data coming from the car and coming to my computer and to the other engineers’ computers. We look at what can be done to get the most performance out of the car and change settings to make the fuel last longer,” Bunt said. “It’s fast paced and high energy. I thrive off that.”
After graduating from Kettering University with a Mechanical Engineering degree, she moved out of the country to further her education. She completed her dissertation in September 2016 at Oxford Brookes University in England, earning a master’s degree in Motorsport Engineering.
In November 2016, she earned a dream opportunity. 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’d been hoping for in Formula 1.
The Infiniti Engineering Academy allowed her to work for six months at the Renault Sport F1 team's headquarters in Enstone, England and six months working at Infiniti's European Technical Center in Cranfield, England.
“It was a great opportunity. It was very interesting to get an inside look into Formula 1 and to work for such a large operation,” Bunt said. “You really get a feel for the level of detail they go into at that level of motorsports, including the software tools that they use, what’s relevant and what isn’t. It was fascinating to see how they decide to use those resources to make the car go faster.”
During her free time on the weekends, she continued to expand her knowledge base by working with a GTE team in the European Le Mans Series, winning the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans and the championship. She began looking for similar opportunities to work in endurance racing in the United States. When the opportunity to work with Team Rahal Letterman Lanigan came her way, she knew it was a perfect fit.
“I always said one day I’m going to move back to America, and I’m going to get this awesome job working with one of these amazing endurance teams. This is a dream job,” Bunt said. “It’s challenging, sustainable long term, and the team is fantastic. The people are intelligent, creative thinking people. This opportunity is checking all the boxes.”
Pushing herself to be better and working hard to accomplish her goals is not something new for Bunt. It was something she also remembers fondly from Kettering.
The co-op program at Kettering mixed with the classes instills in students the importance of collaboration, teamwork and pushing each other.
“The programs at Kettering push students to apply themselves to learn more and become a better engineer by being surrounded by other engineers who want the same thing. You have a high level of support from other students who are also motivated, ambitious and going after their dreams,” Bunt said. “Not everyone is willing to drop everything in their life to go after their dream. That type of attitude and determination would surprise anyone with how far it would take them.”