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(From left to right) Eric LaRoche from the University of Maryland, College Park; Jason Zide from the University of Southern California; and William Priest from the University of Exeter were deemed winners of the Infiniti Performance Engineering Academy. LaRoche and Zide are members of SAE International and leaders of their respective Formula SAE teams.

SAE student members shine in Infiniti F1 engineering competition

Infiniti has announced the winners of its global talent search initiative giving three engineering students a 12-month work placement with the Infiniti Red Bull Racing Formula One team.

After a three-day world final event in the U.K., which saw 12 hopefuls from around the world competing for victory in the Infiniti Performance Engineering Academy, it was Eric LaRoche (SAE Student Associate, 2014) from Hamilton Square, NJ; Jason Zide (SAE Student Affiliate, 2013) from Laguna Beach, CA; and William Priest from Chesham, Buckinghamshire, U.K., who were deemed the winners.

They were judged by a panel of senior engineering personnel from Infiniti and the race team, led by Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey. Along with a 12-month work placement with the team beginning in September, the winners will receive accommodation in the U.K., an Infiniti company car, and full salary.

LaRoche, 25, studies mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park. In addition to participating as lead aerodynamicist for the University of Maryland's Formula SAE team, he has gained experience with Chrysler's Viper GTS-R team in the American Le Mans Series as well as time working at Boeing.

Zide, 21, studies mechanical engineering at the University of Southern California. He is captain of the Formula SAE team and has completed work experience with Infiniti at its North American Technical Center.

Priest, 23, studies mechanical engineering at the University of Exeter. He previously gained experience working as a race engineer with the TH Motorsport British Touring Car team where he assisted the setup and preparation of the racecars. He also spent two weeks working with Infiniti Red Bull Racing in the design department.

With the in-depth assessment process split between Infiniti's Technical Center in Cranfield, U.K., and Infiniti Red Bull Racing in Milton Keynes, U.K., the final candidates, selected from more than 1500 entrants across 100 top engineering universities worldwide, faced a series of challenges over three days relating to road car and racing car engineering. These included practical design tasks, written exams, interviews, and group exercises to test their technical ability, teamwork skills, and performance under pressure. In one task they worked alongside four-time World Champion and Infiniti Director of Performance Sebastian Vettel in the team's simulator.

Commenting on the conclusion of the process, Andreas Sigl, Global Director, Infiniti Formula One, said: "William, Eric, and Jason impressed us all throughout the process, especially given the stiff competition they had from the other candidates. They demonstrated not just a natural aptitude for engineering and an excellent work ethic, but also a real understanding of the benefits Formula One can bring a road car company like Infiniti and the potential for even greater technical crossover in the future. We're delighted to have given them the opportunity to realize their dream and will be working closely with them as they settle into their new role."

Adrian Newey added: "It's an incredible achievement for the winners to have made it through this process, and I was extremely impressed with the caliber of all 12 of the finalists. It's a credit to Infiniti for providing this unique platform to find the very best up-and-coming engineers looking to break into the ultra-competitive world of Formula One. For the winners though, the work really begins now, and we look forward to bringing them into the team in September."

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