Oregon State Races The World, And Wins


June 20, 2012 by David Gillaspie

What are the hallmarks of a champion once you get past the trophy? Blink past the glare of the gold and what do you see?

There’s certainly an IQ for the sport. You expect champions to understand the concept of their activity.

Running backs on championship football teams get it. They study film and tendencies and learn game plans; either that or they take the ball and run to daylight before turning on the jets and burning down the field with eleven defenders in their wake.

Barry Sanders of the Detroit Lions was a great back. So was Gale Sayers of the Chicago Bears. They are two men at the top of most lists of who you’d want carrying the ball on your team. They’re not Jim Brown, but are they champions?


A point guard runs a basketball team with vision and skill. Two of the best in the game are Chris Paul and Steve Nash. They are artists on the hardwood, but are they champions like Bob Cousy? Not yet.

When the awards get handed out after a competition, the winners are defined between two extremes: they are either humble and gracious, or in-your-face-brash. Most fall somewhere in between.

The bewildered first-time champ holding a trophy overhead might feel like their accomplishment is a fluke.

If they win another the next year the talk starts about being a back to back dynasty.

It takes a three-pete, back to back to back, before the reality sinks in. What is that reality? These guys are really good.

Michael Jordan and the Bulls did it twice. He’s no mystery.

Any team notching three national championships in three years ought to be a household name. It works for the LA Lakers. If it happens in the state of Oregon, where no NFL or MLB teams crowd the sports page, a three time champ ought to be easy to spot.

Say hello to the newest member to the club.

The roll-up door in the bottom of Rogers Hall on the OSU campus looked like any other. It’s the same metal garage door you see in mini-storage or grounds keeper sheds on a golf course.

The Rogers Hall door was no different, except behind it lay the engineering labs that produced the last three national champion race cars. Oregon State’s Global Formula Racing team lives there.

In the world of collegiate sports most attention goes to football. If the team has a down year, the attention shifts to basketball. If football and basketball trend downward, the last big season of the year is baseball.

Oregon State baseball has not disappointed. Three trips to the World Series brought two championships home to Corvallis. How good was Beaver baseball? Good enough to kick start baseball at UofO.

The only thing better than two national titles in three tries is three national titles in three years. Doing it on a racetrack in an engineering student built race car makes it even better.

The team behind Global Formula Racing has the IQ. They understand the game they play better than every other college across the land. Some teams build faster cars, others make cars that corner better, but none do it all in a better package than GFR. When their load hits the road, it comes back a winner.

If you wonder what sort of college cares about building race cars, consider the list. It’s not populated by the North South Dakota State JC, or East West Virginia School of Wrenching. Instead, it’s Ivy League with Penn and Cornell and Brown. It’s Big10 with The Ohio State. It’s Big 12 with Texas. It’s SEC with Auburn and Alabama.

Oregon State whipped them all.

College racers come from all points of the compass, including USC. Where would you expect top race cars to emerge, Corvallis Oregon, or Los Angeles California? Bursting into the clear air atop the podium from the gray Willamette Valley, instead of from sunny SoCal, makes victory all the sweeter.

The engineering grad who guided the tour of Rogers Hall received his diploma the day before. He was done, free to take on new challenges, except it didn’t change his schedule. Twenty hour days building a race car before he graduated turned into twenty hour days afterward.

And he’s not alone. Hardcore racers know what it takes to get it done. They’ve brought home the gold three times. They know the drill. The Beaver’s car beats a BMW M3 in the quarter mile. It pulls 2 Gs in a corner. Not the fastest, nor the tightest turning car, just the best.

If the razor sharp young man giving the tour is any indication, GFR is not a hobby. Instead it’s a team of driven engineers using space age technology to produce transportation prototypes for the future. One look at their sponsorship ledger explains it all.

Whatever the current philosophy of education might be, or your taste for the flavor of the day, smart college kids grinding away to build exceptional race cars has to be a highlight. They move from theory to practice, from class to lab, and finally to the race track. What other program lays it out in such stark contrast and wins it all?

Oregon State did it once, twice, three times a champion, and that pipeline is loaded for more. If you’re not a Beaver Believer, this is the bandwagon for you. Just hang on tight. The ride will be fast and tight, and the Oregon Ducks will eventually notice and field a car of their own.

Any success in our part of the country is a victory for all of us. Go Beavers, go.


4 thoughts on “Oregon State Races The World, And Wins

  1. markmmullins says:

    Who knew? This is too cool.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Who knew was my thought too. Most of the time we all get to see a finished product like a movie or a song or a race car. It’s a consumer attitude of ‘that’s nice, next.’ With music we don’t meet the guitar maker or the sound engineer. In movies we don’t see the editor making the cuts and stinging the story together. And in racing we see the winner.

      Well Global Formula Racing is the winner, the 3X winner, and a chance to look behind the scenes is one of the more intriguing visions. It’s a version of the Indy car garage, the NASCAR shop, and airplane testing. When one room hold an oven that cooks materials at 500 degrees AND a freezer that keeps carbon fiber stable at minus 13, you’re inside the machine and people who build cars.

      When you test designs in a wind tunnel you’ve hit the big time with a $200,000 car. What impressed me the most was the trust placed on college kids who already carry a big load, and the way that trust radiates outward. The hardcore race car builders at OSU are on a mission. Three national championships might sound like the mission is over, but from the sounds I heard, it’s just the beginning. Next stop, Austria.

      • markmmullins says:

        Posted your link to my facebook and e-mailed to friends. Getting some great responses. I like what impressed you the most “the trust placed on college kids who already carry a big load, and the way that trust radiates outward”.

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