Old Dominion University Motorsports Provides Valuable Experience for Students in the Professional World of Racing
Monday, July 31, 2017

The team principal of Old Dominion University Motorsports, Victor Seaber, is providing the perfect combination of education and racing for students aspiring to have a career in motorsports or engineering at Old Dominion University (ODU) in Norfolk, Virginia.

"Essentially, we grew as an outreach of the Old Dominion University Motorsports program, which offers a minor in motorsports engineering," Seaber said. "Our IMSA and other racing activities are basically the application arm of that program." 

Seaber's program, which allows students to work on entries in the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda series, is providing real-life career experience for students at ODU.

Stuart Rettie, who is the driver of the No. 21 Old Dominion University Motorsports entry, enjoys having these motivated students as part of his crew."We give the students the ability to apply what they've learned in the classroom, which is extremely valuable to all of our students," said Seaber. "Students are able to come out to the racetrack, located at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR), where they have the opportunity for hands-on work on the cars."

"100 percent of my crew that's driving with me on the road graduates from the ODU program and have proven to be a fantastic pool to choose from," Rettie said.

Most drivers prefer to have familiar faces as their crew, but Rettie says otherwise. The core of the team doesn't change, but students provide additional manpower for the IMSA events. 

"For me, I like it when we don't have the same crew all the way through the year," Rettie said. "It's enjoyable to see the guys start off kind of tentative and then after two or three events, they build their confidence and get much more comfortable. These students gain self confidence in their own abilities and I like to see that personal growth when the younger guys come into the team." 

While students at ODU gain great experience during their undergraduate program, they also are on the lookout for jobs once they complete the program.

"Jobs that our students receive after the program are a wide variety," said Seaber. "Most of our folks go straight into traditional engineering jobs and we've placed some students in NASCAR and on various race teams."

While ODU Motorsports is constantly focused on their program through the university, they are also focused on their racing season, which runs from March to October, and figuring out how to strategize.

"We have been working on how to approach qualifying and paying attention to who is around us and the type of track we are racing at," said Rettie.

Although ODU Motosports is focused on a successful season, as most people involved in racing know, sometimes things don't always go your way in the world of racing.

"We had our toughest weekend to date at Watkins Glen International in late June, because I had a serious incident at practice," said Rettie. "It must have taken 14 hours to put my car back together. The next day, my teammate Jay [Salmon] had to have his engine replaced, and the crew didn't even make it back to the hotel that night. There can be very long and tough hours in this industry, but it's part of the challenge and the fun." 

Aside from any issues that ODU Motorsports has faced, they continue to be a veteran program in the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda series.

Said Seaber: "This is our 10th year in operation and we've continued to morph throughout the years. IMSA is a relatively recent development, we've been doing this for three or four years now and so if you look at our trajectory over time, we've constantly been growing both in personnel and the complexity of what we are doing as a team. The number of race series that we work with has also grown because we also have a full Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) program. As a result, we are at races simultaneously in Georgia and upstate New York this weekend, which can be tough for the team. Our long-term plan is to grow the team, but only to a certain, comfortable size." 

ODU Motorsports will continue to engage students at Old Dominion University to train them to be the future of motorsports.

"Our youth is an extremely powerful thing and ODU Motorsports is grateful to have these bright, young students as a part of our team," said Seaber.

The team has its first win in MPC Masters on July 22 at Lime Rock Park in Round 9 of the IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda series.