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How to get a job in Formula One

Start em up: Formula SAE is a design and performance competition where technical schools and universities design, build and compete with their own single-seater racing cars.

Formula SAE a good way for wannabe race engineers and car designers to get noticed

15 Mar 2013

There will be thousands of young Formula One and V8 Supercar fans at Albert Park this weekend all wondering how they could land their dream job as a team member in pit lane.

Or, perhaps, they might want to be a designer of road cars in the local car industry.

Whichever it is, realising the dream is not as difficult as it might seem from trackside. In fact, the answer is right there at Albert Park this weekend, on display behind the paddock in the Formula SAE exhibition area.

Formula SAE is a design and performance competition where technical schools and universities design, build and compete with their own single-seater racing cars, and it has become the quick way to get a job in the car industry or with a race team.

The growing number of Formula SAE graduates landing jobs in industry and racing could explain the increasing popularity of the competition, said Geoff Pearson, executive director of the Society of Automotive Engineers—Australasia.

“From what I can see, participation in Formula SAE is almost a prerequisite for landing a design engineer’s job at Holden, Ford or Toyota these days,” he said.

“We have a number of guys who have ended up in Formula One, V8 Supercars,” he added.

“Locally, there’s Alistair McVean, who has been at HRT (Holden Racing Team) for a number of years. You often hear his voice on TV speaking to Garth Tander.” McVean, who attended Monash University, will be race engineer for James Courtney this year.

“Grant McPherson is at FPR (Ford Performance Racing). I think he was (Will) Davison’s race engineer. He was at RMIT.” Pearson said there were many more students with Formula SAE experience now working for Holden, Ford and Toyota.

Representatives from the car companies can often be seen during the year-end Formula SAE competition checking out the designs and the students in the paddock at the Werribee test track.

Last year’s winning Formula SAE cars from Monash University – petrol powered – and Swinburne Tech – electric powered – have already done a few laps of the track this week and are on display throughout the weekend.

Formula SAE has been in Australia since 2000 but was established overseas earlier. Australian-designed cars have proved the equal of the world when they have competed overseas, Pearson said.

The University of Wollongong won the American competition in Detroit in 2003, and the RMIT team of which Pearson was a member won the Formula Student competition in the UK in 2004.

RMIT also won in Detroit in 2006 and the UK in 2007 and the University of WA won Detroit in 2008.

“Basically, right from the start, our teams have been operating at an international level,” Pearson said.

Monash University won the Formula SAE competition last December, for the fourth time in a row. The Monash car carries big rear and front wings, a product of aerodynamic work on the university’s wind tunnel.

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