By Talha Hashmani
Nearly a decade ago, Michael Salameh and his family arrived in Canada from Lebanon. On Saturday, he stood in front of a crowd of sponsors, alumni and proud family members, with nearly 50 other students from Ryerson Formula Racing (RFR), Ryerson University’s formula racing team.
The team celebrated their 25th anniversary, as well as the unveiling of their new RF-19 race car. The crowd gathered, eagerly awaiting what was hidden under the black veil.
“Thank you everyone for coming,” said Salameh, RFR team captain, as he nervously looked across the crowded room. Each face fixed attentively on him.
Salameh explained that the engineering design team builds a race car every year to take part in racing competitions attended by various university teams across the world. The largest competition, he said, takes place at the Michigan International Speedway from May 8 to 11 and hosts nearly 120 teams. The competition is hosted by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).
Before the unveiling, Salameh delivered a speech about the RF-19 and explained its various features such as greater fuel efficiency and a faster acceleration period. He also said that the RF-19 is eight per cent lighter than last year’s car, despite its massive size.
The car sports a new paint job, ditching the team’s early renditions of a blue and white car body. It is painted with a glossy black finish and a sharp yellow stripe down its side. The car is also said to be lighter than previous years’ models, even though the frame at its front is larger.
Onlookers were encouraged to move closer to the car, take pictures, and sign their names on the car’s wings - with a small donation to RFR funds.
Sponsors questioned team members on the car’s features, inspecting the handy work of a group of university students who had acquired sponsored materials and technical support.
But for Salameh and his team, it was a celebratory afternoon. Students took pictures with their families and indulged in the euphoria of completion that had taken nearly 8 months to achieve.
According to Erica Attard, the recruitment manager for RFR, there will be four students from the team responsible for driving the car during competitions. Ariel Gill, head of design and testing, said that this will be his third year driving the race car.
Attard said that the RFR consists of students from any discipline. “You don’t have to be in an engineering program to be on the team,” she said.
However, she also added that for engineers, being a part of the RFR team “is the best way to get proper hands-on engineering experience and to learn things you will learn in [later years].”
RFR is funded by a number of sponsors, including the university itself and the Ryerson Engineering Student Society.
According to Attard, the team receives cash sponsorships, services and venues. Additionally, they rely on mechanical parts, materials and technical support from their sponsors.
Attard explained that Ryerson placed in the top 10 at the 2005 Formula SAE Michigan tournament while in 2017, they placed twenty-fifth overall.
The team is now looking forward to competing in this year’s Michigan tournament. In addition, RFR will be competing in Barrie and a small circuit tournament at the University of Toronto - St. George Campus.
To Attard, experiencing the features of the car the team had spent many months working on means more than simply winning each of the upcoming competitions.