Detroit Student Race Team puts local youth behind the wheel
Detroit entrepreneur Andy Didorosi loves his city. The 35-year-old native has always been motivated to make it better by creating multiple businesses that serve the community. Arguably his most successful project, The Detroit Bus Company began back in 2011, when he started transforming old school buses into rolling pieces of art that anyone could rent. Didorosi also offered city tours and free rides for Detroit kids. Others may know the young Detroiter as the founder of the Detroit Student Race Team. This non-profit program allows local teens to work on race cars and then gives them the opportunity to get behind the wheel.
Didorosi has always been a motorsports fan, and he fears that if the discipline doesn’t evolve, it may slowly fade away as the average age of participants and fans continues to climb. “I want to involve people with more diverse backgrounds, and I want motorsports to survive by bringing in a younger generation of racers,” he says. In 2020, a teacher friend of Didorosi’s helped him find eager students for the program.
Present day, the group is thriving, and Didorosi remains at the helm mentoring and supporting young enthusiasts. Detroit Student Race Team is made up of high school students from Detroit and mentors from the automotive industry. The group meets every week for “shop nights,” where they learn how to work on cars. On the weekends, they learn to race.
“The best part is these kids really want to learn,” Didorosi says. “And we can give them the experience of a real race with the 24 Hours of Lemons.”
Andy Didorosi has always been a visionary. At age 16, he flipped his first car—which he purchased from a police auction—and used that money to pay for the corner of a small warehouse, where he set up his own auto repair shop. During the pandemic, his bus business came to a halt, so he started a new hand sanitizer company and retained his employees. He even bought his own tanker truck to carry the necessary alcohol.
You can hear the excitement in Didorosi’s voice when he talks about the racing team. Before he started it, Didorosi was racer himself. In fact, he actually entered the very first 24 Hours of Lemons race, back in the 2000s. He was on the track for 10 minutes, spun, and was told to call it a weekend by an official. Despite that rocky start, he was hooked. After racing in nine other Lemons events, he switched sides and became a race judge.
“Our team began with one mission: Make motorsport accessible to students in Detroit,” Didorosi says. First, they learned car control by driving go-karts. The karts are maintained and raced by the kids at the East Lansing Kart Track. Then, the students worked on performance driving by completing track days with a local BMW club. (Some students had to start by learning how to drive a stick.) Didorosi says the kids are having so much fun they’ve started to bring their parents out to help. He adds, “These kids really want to learn and aren’t afraid to work hard.”
The team started Lemons racing with a donated Lexus ES250. Now, the group races a Chinese car that, technically, shouldn’t even be here: a 2014 GWM Voleex C20R that GM imported to serve as a reverse engineering project. The C20R was never driven on the road here, and instead of destroying it after GM was finished with it, the car was eventually donated to the Detroit Student Racing Team.
“We race with Lemons because of the sense of humor that goes along with it,” Didorosi says. “Racing can be fun. Really, it can! 99.9 percent of people in racing do it as a hobby to bring them joy. But a lot of racing series I’ve tried, the competitors were too serious and took the joy out of it. I think people keep coming back to race with Lemons because it gets old getting beat by the richest guy. Lemons is about effort and ingenuity. You aren’t competing against the biggest bank account, you are competing against the elements, against reliability, and your own skill.”
Didorosi encourages anyone out there who has considered racing to give the series a shot. “Go buy a crappy Malibu and meet us at a Lemons race. You’ll have a blast!”
The Detroit Student Race Team has entered four Lemons races so far, with plans to do a few more in 2023. The team went from a group of newbies and kids that had just learned to drive a manual transmission, to finishing second in class. They also won an Organizer’s Choice Award.
The team even designed the livery, which features a much-appreciated sponsorship from local restaurant SuperCrisp. In addition to the Lemons car, the team has taken the V-8 out of a 1955 Buick and are turning it into an electric race car. This group has already accomplished a lot and it’s even more impressive if you consider the fact that they aren’t racing in some youth league. Instead, they are going door-to-door against full-blown race teams operated by adults, some of which have been racing their whole lives.
The Detroit Student Racing Team started with 12 members, but after the 2022 high school graduation, only four remain. Of those that graduated, six received full-ride college scholarships in engineering. “These kids are going to kick some serious butt in the auto industry someday,” Didorosi says. “They will probably be running GM in a few years.” Enrollment for next year’s group is opening soon.
The Detroit Student Race Team is free to students, mainly in the Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park schools. Didorosi is always looking for willing sponsors and donations to keep the team accessible. To join the team or to learn more, check out the Detroit Bus website.
And if you don’t’ mind winter, Didorosi is running a 24-hour kart race through an old car factory on the shortest—and likely coldest—day of the year, December 21. If the race is anything like his other Detroit endeavors, it’s sure to be a success.