WU Racing dedicates car, competition to former driver

The 2017 WashU Racing Team is heading to Michigan for the Formula SAE Michigan competition May 10-13, carrying with them the memory of one of the team’s best drivers, Whitley Russo.

“Whit tragically passed away in September, so we wanted to dedicate our work this year to him,” said Phil Rowsell, the team’s president, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering with a second degree in finance. “Whit's wife, Ashley, has been incredibly supportive of the team this year, connecting us with new sponsors and encouraging us to make a great car.”

Russo, who earned a degree from the Professional MBA program at Olin Business School in 2015, was the team’s driver for the 2013 Formula SAE Michigan Collegiate Design Series, a highly competitive series with more than 120 other teams from colleges and universities competing. The team finished 43rd overall that year and 15th for the car’s fuel economy, which was its best performance ever. Russo also drove the car for the 2014 competition.

Steven Schleibaum, who earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the School of Engineering & Applied Science in 2013, said Russo had experience in racing cars and helped the team with many aspects of the competition’s requirements.

“He brought his go-kart over and we did some driver training,” said Schleibaum, who is now an engineer at the Chrysler Institute of Engineering. “He was constantly around the shop, asking how he could help. Since he was in the business school, he spearheaded the business presentation of the competition.”

Update as of May 23, 2017: WU Racing placed 69th overall out of 109 teams at the competition, up five places from 2016. The team finished every event and achieved its best-ever score in the Design Review Event. The team’s best event was in acceleration, in which it finished in 23rd place. Unfortunately, the team had problems with the steering in the endurance event, which slowed things down.