Race You to the Finish Line

By:     Ashley Duvelius
Date:  September 15, 2017

Engineering alumnus, Bill Wise, not only assisted in the development of the new 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, he also raced it at Nürburgring Nordschleife—and set the world record for the fastest Camaro to ever lap the famed German track.

Bill Wise, ME '08

You might say Bill Wise, mechanical engineering alumnus ’08, has driven a long way since his days as leader of the Bearcat Motorsports team at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS). In his current role as a chassis development engineer for General Motors (GM), Wise works to fine tune the suspension and handling of the 6th generation Chevy Camaro.

He affectionately calls his job “a weird mix of race car driver and engineer.”

He explains, “Roughly 50% of my time is spent in the car to test and develop it. All suspension components are my responsibility. I tweak the design to get the best performance for each part based on how we want the car to ride or be handled/experienced by the driver.  I develop parts like the tires, the shocks, the steering, and some of the more subtle things, like the bushings and mounts for the suspension attachments.

The other 50% of my time is spent in the garage, making the next change on the vehicle or analyzing data to pick the best part or which direction to go with the next test. It all equates to a desired characteristic for the ride quality and handling capabilities of each Camaro.”

Wise has worked on every Camaro since the inception of the latest generation in 2013, and he’d been developing the 2018 Camaro ZL1 1LE since its conception was first penned more than a year and a half ago.

In April 2017, Wise was given the rare opportunity to drive the new Camaro ZL1 1LE’s “fast lap” at the world famous Nürburgring Nordschleife (north loop), aka The Green Hell Legend. He finished the lap at Nürburgring’s 12.9-mile north loop in only 7:16.04, making the ZL1 1LE the fastest Camaro to ever lap the famed German track. Watch Wise’s fast lap below (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4zSIVpVMaw):

Wise reflects on his record-setting experience, “It was something that I’ve wanted to do for 10 years now. This car was sort of my ‘baby’ and it was a great opportunity to work on the fastest Camaro to date.  So, when we committed to sending the car over to Germany to do the fast lap at Nürburgring, it goes without saying that I was very excited.  Driving the lap itself requires a ton of focus as it is easily 3-4 times longer than any tracks I have driven.  Plus, in order to finish quickly, you have to take calculated risks to try and shave off extra time. We call this method ‘controlled aggression.’  The whole experience was incredibly satisfying!”

GM describes the ZL1 1LE as taking “Chevrolet’s track-focused 1LE legacy to an even higher level, with racing-based adjustable suspension components — including Multimatic DSSV® (Dynamic Suspension Spool Valve) front and rear dampers — special front dive planes and carbon-fiber rear wing, and exclusive Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar 3R summer-only tires, in an extreme track performance package powered by the 650-horsepower LT4 supercharged V-8 engine.”

Wise remarks of the ZL1 1LE’s superior performance, “The harder you push the Camaro ZL1 1LE, the more it rewards you on the track. It offers total control, with the confidence that it will deliver lap after lap.”

The Canton, OH native states that it was the unparalleled coupling of the CEAS cooperative education program (commonly referred to as co-op) with his Bearcat Motorsports experience that most prepared him for his phenomenal career in the car industry. 

Wise driving the 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE is the fastest Camaro to ever lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

Wise driving the 2018 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, making it the fastest Camaro to ever lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife.

He says, “I had toured several colleges before visiting UC, but there was a very specific moment when walking through Rhodes Hall where I noticed a poster for the Bearcat Motorsports (FSAE) team on the wall.  Up until that point in time, I had never heard of Formula SAE and following that poster sighting, I realized that FSAE was perfect for me and the goals I had been putting in place for myself.”

Bearcat Motorsports is the UC Academic Intercollegiate Competition (AIC) student group that participates in Formula SAE (FSAE), a collegiate design competition sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and supported by all of the major automotive companies and suppliers. The competition involves the design, construction, and testing of an open-wheel, Formula One style racecar. The students are involved in design, cost analysis and sales/marketing presentations as well as static and driving competitions against other collegiate teams from all over the world over the four days of the competition.

Wise continues, “I cannot say enough about the Bearcat Motorsports program and, most importantly, the freedom that Professor Randy Allemang allowed us to manage the team ourselves.  The skills I now use on a daily basis are the same skills I developed through Bearcat Motorsports and I wouldn’t have been able to have learned them elsewhere. My vehicle dynamics knowledge all stemmed from the team and that is the crux of my chosen career path.  I applied classroom knowledge like designing structures, linkages, and mechanisms on a real project and that cemented that knowledge into my brain.  This real-life application of theory is a big contributor to me being able to firmly grasp my knowledge of racecars. I also can’t verbalize how much technicians and fabricators respect me now because I know how to TIG and MIG weld, machine parts whether on a mill or lathe, disassemble and assemble parts of a car.  All of which are skills that I learned through FSAE.”

Bearcat Motorsports testing their FSAE car, Camden.

Bearcat Motorsports testing their FSAE car.

Wise completed four co-op rotations with the Dana Corp, one round at their test facility in NW Ohio and three rounds at a manufacturing facility in Auburn Hills, MI. His final two co-op assignments were with General Electric.

Wise’s first job after college was working for Bosch Engineering Group as a supplier, doing calibration work for GM on ABS systems (safety systems such as Anti-lock Brakes).  Throughout his 3 years with Bosch, he spent much of his time doing calibration work for the Chevy Corvette.

He says, “Over that time period, I learned a lot about the business of developing production cars and decided what I really wanted to do was chassis development for the manufacturer.  Instead of producing someone else’s vision of how a car performs, it would provide me a larger input on how a customer experiences a vehicle.”

When a development position opened up within GM, Wise took quick advantage of the opportunity and launched into his current role. He’s garnered many achievements throughout his 6-year tenure with GM, but none, he says, quite matches the thrill of running the fastest Camaro at Nürburgring.

Wise closes, “Not just the fast lap itself, but the fact that I attained a personal goal I had set for myself more than 10 years ago.  Ironically, I had no intention of becoming a racer when I was young. But when I first sat in a racecar at age 18, I instantly became addicted to it.  I’ve since dedicated myself to learning and achieving the highest level of capability that I have now. I may be more proud that I worked hard to earn my current position and that I set my sights on the Nürburgring opportunity and saw it through to realization. That could make it the proudest singular achievement of my life.”


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