Infiniti has announced that two American engineering students have won its global talent search initiative for the career opportunity of a lifetime with World Championship-winning Formula One team, Infiniti Red Bull Racing.
After a grueling three-day world final event in the UK which saw 12 hopefuls from around the world competing for victory in the Infiniti Performance Engineering Academy, it was Eric LaRoche from Hamilton Square, New Jersey and Jason Zilde from Laguna Beach, California along with one other from the UK who were deemed the winners.
Eric (25) and Jason (21) were judged by a panel of senior engineering personnel from Infiniti and the race team, led by legendary F1 car designer and Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey, recently announced to be taking a broader role on other special Red Bull Technology projects. Along with a lucrative 12-month engineering work placement with the team beginning in September, Eric and Jason will receive accommodation in the UK, an Infiniti company car and full salary.
Eric studies Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland and has gained significant engineering experience having worked at Chrysler’s Viper GTS-R team in the American Le Mans Series as well as time working at aviation giant Boeing.
Jason studies Mechanical Engineering at the University of Southern California and has gained significant engineering experience having worked as Team Captain of a Formula SAE team and is familiar with the Infiniti family having completed work experience with the premium auto brand at its North American Technical Center.
Eric and Jason were selected to participate in the final of the Infiniti Performance Engineering Academy from over 1,500 entrants across 100 top engineering universities worldwide. They faced a series of challenges over three days relating to road car and racing car engineering split between Infiniti’s Technical Center in Cranfield, UK and at Infiniti Red Bull Racing in Milton Keynes, UK.
These included practical design tasks, written exams, intense interviews and complex group exercises to test their technical ability, teamwork skills and performance under pressure. In one task they even got a first-hand insight into the role of a race engineer, working alongside four-time World Champion and Infiniti’s Director of Performance, Sebastian Vettel, in the team’s simulator.
Commenting on winning the process and on his future role, Eric said: “This process has been overwhelming, exciting, nerve-wracking and humbling. The other 11 candidates were extremely strong so it’s an honor to have made the final three. Hopefully I’ll be able to build on this experience when I take on the huge challenge of working in F1, and I look forward to being pushed, to learning more and hopefully having some fun along the way.”
Commenting too on winning the process and on his future role, Jason said: “It was pretty astonishing to hear Adrian Newey announce my name and it still feels surreal now, but this has been an incredible process and I’ve made some great friends along the way. I’m going into the new role with open eyes and just want to learn as much as I can, work as hard as I can and enjoy the ride.”
Andreas Sigl, Global Director, Infiniti Formula One, added: “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 road car technologies and the potential for even great technical crossover in the future. We’re delighted to have given Eric and Jason the opportunity to realize their dreams and will be working closely with them as they settle into their new roles.”
Commenting on the conclusion of the process, 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.”
Infiniti Performance Engineering Academy US winner profiles:
Eric, 25, from Hamilton Square, New Jersey, studies Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park. He has a passion for motorsport and aviation and, in addition to participating as lead aerodynamicist with the University of Maryland’s Formula SAE team, has gained experience with Chrysler’s Viper GTS-R team in the American Le Mans Series as well as time working at aviation giant Boeing.
Jason, 21, from Laguna Beach in California, studies Mechanical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He is Team Captain of a Formula SAE team and is familiar with the Infiniti family having completed work experience with the premium auto brand at its North American Technical Center.