Just a few miles down the road from Road Atlanta, in Oakwood, Ga., the Motorsports Vehicle Technology program at Lanier Technical College is training tomorrow’s race mechanics. NASA Southeast TT racer Christian Tetzlaff heads the program.
“The program is about 15 years old now,” Tetzlaff said. “I’ve been running it for about four years. Before that I was teachi in it part time, and about 10 years before that I graduated from the program as well.”
Tetzlaff continued his education after Lanier Tech, earning his bachelor’s degree, and a master’s in education. Right now, there are about 60 students enrolled in the program, he said. Students graduate with an associate’s degree, which allows them either to enter the workforce or continue their education at a four-year university.
Before they are allowed to graduate, students must have completed two semester-long internships with a professional race team. During the Eastern States Championships at Road Atlanta, two students, Eric Reynolds and Burke Nicholson, were charged with prepping Tetzlaff’s car for competition in TTD.
“Now I really enjoy going to school,” Reynolds said. “Every day I learn new things in a field I’m passionate about.”
Because of the way the program is structured, students get real motorsports experience, hands-on and classroom training all within two years. In addition to the students helping Tetzlaff that day, other Lanier students were helping teams throughout the Road Atlanta paddock during the Championships races.
“A lot of our super students end up going on and they continue in getting their bachelor’s in engineering, so they become seriously sophisticated race engineers, because they have that hands-on experience, not just the theoretical,” Tetzlaff said.
He works with NASA Southeast Regional Director Jim Pantas and his wife Julie. Together, they help students get a good footing by building up their networks and letting them see how things actually unfold during a race and during a race weekend. Tetzlaff added that Lanier Tech has students working for the factory Corvette Racing team, OPM Autosports, Kinetic Motorsports and Dempsey Racing.
“Just about any race team within about a hundred miles of Road Atlanta,” he said, “we’ve got guys who work there.”
For more information, visit: www.laniertech.edu/mvt