(LOS ANGELES, May 9, 2008) – For the second year in a row, two San Luis Obispo High School students beat a field of 38 other students to win the California 2008 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition today. Last year, the San Luis Obispo team also went on to win the national auto skills championship.
The competition, sponsored by Ford and the Automobile Club of Southern California, is designed to find the most talented young auto technicians in the U.S.
San Luis Obispo High competed in the Southern California portion of the contest, held at Irwindale Speedway this morning. It earned the state championship by achieving the highest score among the 10 two-student teams at Irwindale, as well as beating the score of 10 two-student teams who were competing simultaneously in Northern California. Last year, the San Luis Obispo team became the first California team to win the national Ford/AAA championship in more than 10 years.
San Luis Obispo High seniors Cyrus Dalal, 18, and Gordon Freirich, 18, completed the Southern California hands-on competition in 93 minutes, finding and repairing nine out of ten problems correctly with the vehicle. They each won three college scholarships, including a $10,000 scholarship to United Technical Institute and a two-year scholarship to one of 60 higher education schools participating in the Ford Motor Co.’s ASSET (Automotive Student Service Educational Training) program. The winning San Luis Obispo High School team instructor – for the second year in a row – is Jeff Lehmkuhl. His students also won two sets of tools from Snap-On and Matco and a Powertrain package for finishing on top.
“The car that Cyrus and Gordon repaired today only had one small mistake out of 10 repairs, meaning it was nearly perfect,” said Rick Lalor, event competition chairman and the Auto Club’s motor sports manager. “These students are from a high school with a long tradition of first class teams who have competed on the national level and have demonstrated professional workmanship and high-tech knowledge needed to repair today’s vehicles.”
Ramona High’s team of Ian Bablewski and Trevor Calton, coached by Michael Jordan, finished second in the Southern California competition, while Lompoc High took third place. The Lompoc students are Joshua Tainowitz and Alberto Vasquez, and their instructor is Michael Johnson.
The competition winners were determined by the combination of an online qualifying exam and the team’s performance in today’s hands-on competition to quickly and accurately repair a deliberately disabled 2008 Ford Escapes.
As statewide champion, the San Luis Obispo High team advances to the national finals in Dearborn, MI next month, where $5 million in scholarships and prizes will be distributed.
The Auto Club co-sponsors the annual competition to draw attention to the need to attract qualified students to high-paying automotive professions. Mechanics with two-year degrees will be able earn a starting salary of $40,000 annually, with salary growth up to $100,000 or more for master technicians.
Trained automotive technicians are among the most sought-after and highly paid professionals in today’s job market, but many high schools are reducing or eliminating automotive programs due to lack of funding and/or trained teachers.