UNF Osprey Racing team from Jacksonville to compete in Michigan

Nathan Velez slapped down his helmet’s visor as the Honda motorcycle engine inches behind him barked to life, then goosed Osprey Racing team’s Swoopde9 into the coned-off parking lot-turned racecourse next to a dormitory.

The blue and white racecar isn’t headed to the Indy 500, but where its first weeks of testing take it in May is just as important to the 40 University of North Florida students and alumni who designed, built and drive it.

This ninth in Osprey Racing’s series of open-wheel single-seat racecars began design in 2019 to compete against the world at the 2020 Society of Automotive Engineers’ engineering competition. But COVID-19 lockdowns stalled completion and the international competition.

Now the team has completed the car to compete in May’s Formula SAE event at Michigan International Speedway. So after a final engine check, Velez roared off.

“It’s more insane than ever — the acceleration, the noise,” he said after a morning’s worth of test runs. “When you go full throttle, you hear everything. It’s almost like going straight tunnel vision, then you see the green light and shift up and you are on!”

From 2012:Meet the first Osprey Racing car to compete

Osprey Racing captain Nathan Velez enters a turn in Swoopde9, the University of North Florida student engineering team's latest Formula SAE racecar, in an early test run.

Watching the bullet-shaped car’s hot laps, Osprey Racing President Nathan Stratton said it’s been a long year to wait. But the mechanical engineering student said they have a surprise come May.

“We are constructing our first aerodynamic package with big wings front and back and an engine cowl, all of the fancy, modern aerodynamics,” the sophomore said. “We have somebody who is an absolute genius designing our aero package, and we were told by the judges two years ago that we would never find anybody better.”