Fuelled by passion: Formula SAE team races towards success

The University of Auckland's Formula SAE team is revving up for the ultimate engineering showdown in Australia from 14 December.

 The University's Formula SAE team
The University's Formula SAE team designed and constructed an electric race car for the Australasian F:SAE EV-Class competition.

Matthew Inglis, the chief engineer behind the University of Auckland's Formula SAE team, confesses that his journey into motorsport didn't start with a roaring passion.

However, that’s “absolutely changed”, he says.

“Now I love watching the Formula One races with the team, when they appear at reasonable hours of the day.”

Matthew and the 85-strong Formula SAE team are in high gear as they prepare for the upcoming Australasian F:SAE EV-Class competition.

Held at Calder Park in Melbourne, from December 14 to 17, the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) student engineering competition is the ultimate test of design, construction and racing skills for internal combustion or electric race cars, up to 610cc/80kW.

Each year, the dedicated Formula SAE cohort faces the challenge of meticulously designing and constructing an electric race car from scratch. It’s an ambitious undertaking and collaborative process that requires engineering innovation and mechanical prowess.

Last year, the team’s hard work paid off when they triumphed over 22 other universities in the head-to-head battle.

“Formula SAE is a really rewarding experience. It's been a highlight of my University studies,” says Matthew.

He joined the Formula SAE team in the second year of his Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) degree, starting out as a newbie on the suspension team and eventually moving up the ranks to suspension leader before being named chief engineer. Next year, he’ll start a job at Rocket Lab in the ground systems engineering team.

Formula SAE chief engineer, Matthew Inglis and team leader, Thais Wright.
Formula SAE chief engineer, Matthew Inglis, and team leader, Thais Wright.

Matthew works closely with Formula SAE team leader, Thais Wright, to help steer the team towards another championship.

But unlike Matthew, Thais has always been a huge motorsport fan – and she hopes to land a job in the industry once she graduates from her Master of Commerce degree.

Thais isn’t just a motorsport enthusiast; she’s the backbone of the team, ensuring that they operate efficiently and meet deadlines.

She has also played a pivotal role in fostering a positive team environment since joining in October 2022. One of her highlights has been witnessing new team members, initially curious and excited about the project, evolve into leaders responsible for critical components of the race car.

However, she has had to navigate the distinctive challenge of being one of the few women on the team.

“Sometimes it's a bit hard, but I don't feel like I’m treated differently, which is very nice. Sometimes you have to speak up and stick your elbows out like, ‘Hey, I'm here, listen to me’. Fortunately, the team places trust in me as their leader.”

Thais stresses the importance of maintaining focus in the lead-up to this year's competition and says she expects to see the team back on the podium when all is said and done.

“Our main goal is keeping the mindset that we still need to do well this year, even though we won last year, and not rest on our laurels.”

Media contact

Hussein Moses | Media adviser
M: 027 361 1000
E: hussein.moses@auckland.ac.nz