Powercat Motorsports – 25 Years of Competition

By Grant Guggisberg

Powercat Motorsports, K-State’s Formula SAE racing team, has come a long way since 1997.

What started as a seven-member team alongside advisor David Pacey designing a tube-frame car for the team’s first competition has evolved into something much bigger.

One of the most popular student design teams at K-State, Powercat Motorsports formed in 1997 and spent a year organizing and preparing for its first competition in spring 1999. The initial team took 60th place out of 107 teams, with many highs and lows at competitions in the years since.

Photo of Powercat Motorshports Car

View past team photos

Many of the early K-State teams settled in the middle of the pack among the more than 100 competing teams each year. But recent results suggest the team is on the rise. The group managed its best finish in club history at Michigan International Speedway in June 2023, taking 14th place out of 119 competing teams. This year’s jump in the standings was preceded by a 39th-place finish in 2019 and a 26th-place finish in 2022.

Club president and senior in mechanical engineering Anish Srivastava said the club has even bigger goals for the future as the team prepares for its 25th year of SAE competition.

“I see this team winning the Michigan competition in the next three years,” he said. “After we conquer internal combustion, the plan is to switch fully to electric vehicles. We have designs for an EV FSAE car in progress, but it is currently stalled at the design stage.”

Srivastava said the group hopes to see continued growth in the number of participating students, which has been steadily increasing since 2021. The group does not limit the number of participants and accepts interested students regardless of their background or academic major.

“The biggest change the younger class of our team is pushing for is to lower the learning curve and grow to 150 active students like the top teams in the U.S.,” he said.

While the time commitment as an active member of the team is high, Srivastava said the best part about competing with the team is the community.

“We live together, work together and study together,” he said. “I spend more time with my team family than I do with my real family.”

The team generated some local interest this fall when it hosted and won its first-ever competition in Manhattan, Formula Wheat, at Tuttle Creek Spillway. While not an official Formula SAE competition, the event was designed to be a similar experience to give the eight competing teams the chance to practice for the real thing. K-State won the event, edging second-place Iowa State by just eight points.

“We were ecstatic with the results,” Srivastava said. “Our goal was to take first place and defend our home turf, and we did exactly that. The event was logistically solid as well. We were anticipating some massive hurdles and hiccups but nothing of that sort happened.”

Srivastava said the team is planning to make Formula Wheat an annual event, with the potential for other programs in Kansas to take turns hosting once it gets more established.