Part malfunction leads to disappointing finish for Formula SAE team

A random and unpredictable mishap shattered Kettering University’s Formula SAE team’s chances at a top-five finish at the the 2017 competition from June 21-24 at Lincoln Airpark in Lincoln, Nebraska. Instead of their best modern finish, the Formula SAE team ultimately finished 29th overall in the competition. 

“We were placing really well,” said John Lloyd ‘20, Team Leader of Kettering’s Formula SAE team. “We were in a position to make a move and finish in the top five before an unexpected accident took us out of the endurance run. It was a freak accident. Nobody saw it coming.” 

The accident: the part of the spark plug where the coil attaches randomly unthreaded itself. As a result, the team had to pull out of the endurance run after just seven laps. Lloyd and his teammates don’t know why the part defected at the most inopportune of times. Formula SAE

Prior to shortfall in the endurance portion of the competition, the car was meeting the team’s expectations. The team finished 16th in Design, 23rd in Presentation, sixth in Cost, seventh in Acceleration, 15th in SkidPad and eighth in Autocross.

Now, the team is looking ahead to next year and trying to comprehend how they can use this experience to be better in the future. Lloyd and Chief Engineer Sean Rabenaldt are returning in leadership roles and are already contemplating modifications to the current vehicle. 

“We’re keeping the same platform and making moderate changes,” Lloyd said. “We’re going to add an under tray to make it more aerodynamic.”

Additionally, the team is planning on updating the engine, making the vehicle lighter by incorporating more carbon fiber in the design and improve their manufacturing process overall.  

“We are pursuing a sense of redemption next year,” Lloyd said. 

For more information on the team, visit