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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Most nights of the week, welding sparks and noise can be seen and heard from outside the sturdy, brown garage doors of Aerospace and Engineering C that sit just down the road from the stadium.

Inside the shop, a dozen or so students of Gator Motorsports have almost finished building a formula race car that they will take to an international student competition at the Michigan International Speedway in May.

Ashley Averill, president of Gator Motorsports, said they’re creating a small-scale formula car for the event.

The race car, for now an unfinished, open-wheel, single-seat vehicle called “61,” is the centerpiece of the shop.

It has a blue seat belt, colored wires protruding from its structured sides and a computer keyboard lying on its wheel, put there as a joke.

Big and small pieces of metal are piled on a long table behind the car. A transparent orange curtain hangs from one side of the shop to prevent eye damage from welding.

The car will be finished soon, and when it is, members of the team will take turns driving it at least two days a week until the competition. A nearby parking lot and a karting track are used for these practice sessions, Averill said.

These things are all a part of everyday life at the shop, where student-built race cars are produced every year for the competition.

UF has placed in the top 10 three years in a row and is the only school in the world to have ever done so, Averill said.

“Some people think we’re kind of crazy because we’re throwing in 40-plus hours a week to an extracurricular, but it really is an awesome experience,” said Jeff Simons, team captain. “I really don’t think you really get it anywhere else on campus. That is why we’re passionate for it.”

Averill agreed and gestured to a crowded trophy shelf above a banner of Gator Motorsports in the corner of the shop.

“I see the abilities of our members and the time and commitment they have been putting in, and I think we’ll be a force to reckon with in the competition,” she said. “I want to bring back the trophy again.”

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