NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Unlike the quiet chill in the air outside around the Roseann Runte Quad on the Old Dominion University campus, inside the garage of the Motorsports Club it is anything but.
“During the school year, pretty much all of us are just in here, everyday,” said ODU student Bryce Thacker, the design lead on the club’s Formula team.
The club is in full swing and will be competing this spring with a brand new car and remodeling an old one. In May, they will travel to the Midwest and the West Coast for two race car competitions.
They will be representing the university as Whiskey Throttle Racing for the Baja team in Washington, and as Monarch Racing for the Formula team in Michigan.
It’s part of the school’s Engineering Department, where bright ideas come to life.
“I’ve always enjoyed the passion of building cars and seeing how they work,” said communications lead Mason Zahn. “This club helped build that passion that I enjoy.”
Club members are working on the design of their two cars.
“Within the ODU Motorsports Club, we do have two sides, we have Formula and the Baja cars,” Zahn said. “The Formula cars are the F1 style cars, and the Baja is the trophy style, the mini trophy style cars that run across off-road tracks. Formula cars run in a circle track.”
The team is bringing back their Baja car, No. 56, but creating an entirely new frame for the Formula team. Both are in the rebuilding stages, but the club is on track to finish them just in time before their competition.
In previous competitions, the club has done well, though last year was one to chalk up as a learning experience.
“Last year we did not do very well at competition,” said Scott Thornton, a design lead on the Baja team. “Our shortcoming was our brakes, so that’s one needed improvement that we’re going to be making this year. We have all kinds of things break, but that’s kind of part of the deal with building these cars. We build them, and of course, we have to maintain them.”
Members tell 10 On Your Side that in 2019, the team did very well in the Midnight Mayhem competition that took place in Louisville, Kentucky, placing second. After the COVID-19 pandemic, Mason and current Baja team captain Josh Smith built car #56 (4-LOKO) with help from other engineering students.
The Baja team competed last year with that car in the Baja SAE International Tennessee Tech competition, a four-hour endurance race. They had difficulties and finished at the bottom of the standings due to brake issues and engine flooding.
This year, the Motorsports Club is excited to represent ODU and showcase its motorcars at two different competitions, both hosted by the Society of Automotive Engineers International.
The goal of the club is to attract new members and keep the program running, and it isn’t just for engineering majors.
Anyone who has an interest in how cars are made, their design, or who wants to be a part of a group on campus has a place in the club. The group even promotes themselves to elementary schools. Just last week they went to Larchmont Elementary School to inspire kids and brought their cars.
“Doing more outreach with students, posting flyers, doing all kinds of things to kind of spread the word about the club and also get perspective students.” Thacker said.
He said the more people they can get into the club, the better.
“We’ll look at the things that happened prior and learn from them and just basically do better at competition.”
“The future of this club looks good,” Thornton added.