Brand New Badger: Student race car driver looks to use racing skills on campus

September 12, 2017 By Emily Hamer

Tazio Stefanelli, pictured outside of Union South, is an incoming freshman who plans on majoring in mechanical engineering. Emily Hamer

Incoming freshman Tazio Stefanelli is used to life at high speeds.

While Stefanelli, of Elkhorn, is now spending his time transitioning into life at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, for the past seven years he has been road racing cars, most recently on the Formula Ford circuit.

In his most recent race at Road America, Stefanelli clocked a lap time of two minutes and 26 seconds, hitting speeds of more than 130 mph and taking corners at more than 50 mph. Navigating the twists and turns of the courses at high velocities is something Stefanelli finds “exhilarating.”

“If you’re really good, you’re kind of scaring yourself at the speeds at which you’re taking these corners,” Stefanelli says. “The faster you go, you have to be more confident in yourself.”

Each time Stefanelli takes another lap, he goes faster and faster, striving to “find that extra tenth of a second” that could make him win the race.

Tazio Stefanelli stands next to his formula race car. Courtesy of Tazio Stefanelli

And he’s usually successful.

Stefanelli says he has won first in his racing class for almost every road race he has competed in, even though he is typically the youngest racer.

When he does well, Stefanelli sees it as an opportunity to set new goals.

“You feel extremely proud, but at that same time you feel like you can do even better,” Stefanelli says.

Beyond the exhilaration and self-improvement opportunities, Stefanelli says he loves road racing because of the connections he is able to make with people.

Even with racers who are much older, there is the common connection of racing that makes it easy to talk and hang out.

Stefanelli says racing also helps him bond with his dad, who raced cars professionally. When Stefanelli started racing seven years ago in go karts, his dad taught him about driving and they raced each other. When Stefanelli moved up to formula cars two years ago, he worked on the improving the mechanics of his car with his dad.

Stefanelli thinks this experience will help him in his work studying mechanical engineering, his intended major at UW. He also plans on joining the Formula SAE Team, which is a group of UW students who design and race formula cars.

Whether through his experience working on his car or his understanding of racing, Stefanelli hopes he can be a helpful member of the Formula team. As for the future, Stefanelli wants road racing to be a part of it.

“Not sure how much time I’ll have or where I’ll be located, but I’m planning on racing,” Stefanelli says.

Three questions with Tazio Stefanelli

Why I chose UW–Madison: I chose UW–Madison because I’ve heard a lot of really good things about it. It’s a great engineering school, it’s a lot of fun and also, it’s an in-state school so it’s not as expensive.

What I’m most looking forward to this year: Just having the freedom of being able to choose what you want to do and like being able to basically design what path you want to go down in the future with class choices, and all the electives and just small fun classes that you’re able to take.

Something on my Bucky List: Go watch the cement canoes and see if any of them fail.

“Brand New Badger” is a series of profiles spotlighting notable new students on campus this fall.