From professional race car driver to MAE undergrad
For most people when they watch racing, they only think of the driver and the car. But in reality, there are many crucial factors that take place behind the scenes of motorsports that make a world of difference. With the car set-up, preparation and business side of the sport, only a small portion of success actually takes place on the track.
For Colin Mullan, who has spent most of his life in the driver’s seat, understanding all of these aspects is vital to his continued growth in the racing industry.
Mullan, a third-year mechanical engineering student and the vehicle dynamics lead for Ohio State's Formula Buckeyes Student Projects Team, came to Ohio State with hopes to begin that growth while continuing his professional racing career.
“Mechanical Engineering was the natural bridge between my automotive and motorsport interests in the classroom,” Mullan said. “There aren’t too many drivers with engineering backgrounds in the United States currently, so it gives me a unique leg-up on my competition in some ways.”
From the young age of five, Mullan began his racing endeavors through go-kart racing which evolved into cars and quickly became a goal of
his to keep moving on to bigger and faster things.
Growing up an hour east of San Francisco in Danville, California, there were opportunities to network and talk to various people in the sports racing world and race on the West Coast.
His passion for racing was established early along with his interest in data and mathematics. At 13, he began working with racing data software and wanted to pursue a major that allowed him to further enhance his racing skills.
A few years later, at 16, he began competing on a national level for the International Motor Sports Association – one of the largest sports car series in the country.
Mullan has had notable accomplishments throughout his career so far. In 2018, during his junior year of high school, he won the Team USA scholarship. With this achievement he was able to spend the month of October racing across the UK.
“It was an honor to be listed among fellow Team USA Alumni drivers I grew up watching race in the IMSA and IndyCar,” Mullan said.
From there, he began racing for Andretti Autosport, driving a McLaren 570S GT4, McLaren’s premiere track-only race car. In 2020, he and his team even won the GT4 America Championship.
“Driving with two iconic brands in motorsport was truly a special experience,” Mullan said, “I still reflect on it to this day.”
With the popularity of the automotive and motorsport industries in the Midwest, he was drawn to schools in the Big Ten.
He reached out to schools that piqued his interests and had conversations with the engineering faculty at Ohio State like Giorgio Rizzoni, the director at CAR, who helped solidify Mullan’s decision to come to Ohio for his education.
Additionally, the access to the Center for Automotive Research at Ohio State made him feel connected to the engineering side of the racing industry he grew up with. Jeff Chrstos, a research scientist at CAR and advisor for the Formula SAE team, has been a huge support for the student organization and in answering any questions involving the engineering side of motorsport.
“It was important to me to be in an environment with professors who would understand the connections between motorsports and engineering,” Mullan said. “I was very impressed with the accessibility to the department and their genuine interest in helping students.”
His involvement with the Formula Buckeyes racing team has given him hands-on experience with a side of racing he has been previously unfamiliar with. He has been able to add extra insight through his experience to the team as well, and he has enjoyed having the opportunity to build and play with race cars.
Balancing racing and schoolwork have been prominent through middle school, high school and now at Ohio State. He makes sure to stay ahead of assignments and deadlines and is thankful for having professors that have been accessible and accommodating.
Going to school at Ohio State has been nothing short of a wonderful experience, his favorite part being the culture surrounding the school. His experiences with many amazing people and friends he's met along the way he says will last him a lifetime.
Continuing a career in racing is what’s next for Mullan, piecing together programs along with partnerships and proper funding will be a factor for his success. Recently, with his family they have started a motorsport marketing company with a goal to utilize the racing world as a way to bring sponsors value.
Further, he would love to promote Ohio State and show its engineering prowess through motorsports.
“One day I would hope to give students at Ohio State the chance to be a part of a proper race team” Mullan said.
Written by Kierra Hampton, MAE Communications and Marketing Coordinator