Written by: Alex Barry
After 18 months of planning, building, preparation and the disappointment of pulling out of the 2013 FSAE competition, the Formula Student UK competition came around by which time every team member was eager to show what Edith Cowan University Racing was all about on the world stage. Hertfordshire University Racing were our gracious hosts for the first few days in the UK and provided us workshop and storage space which we were very grateful for.
As most of you may know, anytime something custom is manufactured and put through its paces, something is bound to break and problems encountered. There was no shortage of problems with our custom engine during dynamic testing and the team quickly got very familiar with removing the engine and replacing components. For those unaware, we are running a custom engine based off a Honda CBR600RR motorcycle engine but certain parts modified. The stock internals have been retained but are now housed inside a custom machined block to accommodate a reversed head; and also enabled us to drop the crank centre line down 120mm, seat the engine further forward to improve the weight distribution, and direct the exhaust out the back of the engine and the intake facing the front which greatly improved the heat dissipation and insulation.
A few days later we moved into our campsite within walking distance from Silverstone Circuit. It was fantastic to see so many teams from all corners of the Earth supporting the competition; the stage was set and our excitement was palpable. An early morning start – something that happens very often in Formula SAE - followed by a 20 minute walk saw our first day at the track and settled into our assigned garage. Half of the team members had to remain back at the University of Hertfordshire as we were still encountering issues leading up to the competition.
We attempted to pass scrutineering as quickly as we could so we could prepare and focus on the dynamic events, however the judges decided we needed to modify a few things such as the front wing bolts being too strong and therefore not shearing away in the event of a collision. Due to the lack of time and curfew in the garages we set our goal of passing scrutineering first thing in the morning.
The car passed scrutineering early in the morning as we had planned, just in time for the start of the static events. This involved creating a business presentation, design event presentation and a cost event presentation. Our custom engine garnered the most attention from judges and other teams alike and we were constantly getting bombarded with questions about it which we loved! We were very honoured to receive awards from Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains for ‘Class 1 Best Powertrain Installation of an Internal Combustion Engine’ and from Jaguar Land Rover for ‘Innovation in Propulsion Systems’.
The dynamic events ran over the next couple of days with all of the events occurring on the first day besides endurance, a gruelling 50 lap test of a car’s reliability and performance sees a lot of teams go home in tears. After our drivers walked the course preparing themselves for the sprint and endurance events, the car was prepared for our first event which was acceleration, a timed 0-75m acceleration run. Considering the small problems we had right before our run, a time of 4.2 seconds by Nathan Van Vugt to place us in 11th overall and amongst the fastest combustion cars was a great result.
We then moved onto the skid pad, a figure-of-8 circuit that tests how well the car corners and maintains traction under a high-G load. Our driver Thomas Ayres managed the quickest time for us with a 5.1, however a cone was hit on the way out of the course and incurred a 0.2 second time penalty. Alex Barry pulled a clean 5.3 second average time, placing us in 12th place overall for the event. Moving into the afternoon those events closed and the sprint event started up. This is a single 730m lap of the endurance course, testing a car’s upper limit in cornering, acceleration and braking. Alex Barry drove fiercely and ended up clocking a time of 58.121 seconds, placing us in 22nd overall for the event. The drivers complained that the car was not setup correctly and thus not performing at its potential, however they could still feel that it was a seriously quick car and a lot more could be extracted from it.
By this point of the competition morale was high but everyone was pretty exhausted with most staying up until the close of the pitlane garages at 11pm and getting to the track in the morning for 7am. Endurance was the most heavily points-weighted event in the competition so we were eager to place highly. The event was piloted by our drivers Thomas Ayres and Daniel Moreira who both produced excellent drives. Unfortunately a slow moving car ahead of us on the very final lap forced the car to stall and had trouble restarting. This was a very tense moment as the seconds ticked by we were increasingly anxious that the car would not restart and we would forfeit a lot of points. Eventually the car fired up into life and we finished endurance; a huge goal and sigh of relief for the team.
We attended the final awards ceremony where we were pleasantly surprised by the amazing effort of our very own Daniel Moreira which earned him the ‘Top Individual Driver’ award of the competition! This sent the team crazy and over the moon to win these awards and we walked away with 12th place overall for the competition, something we could be very proud of for our first international competition.
Formula Student UK was a big eye opener in terms of things we need to improve on, considering how the events could have gone if we did not have as many problems as we did a better finish would definitely have been possible. The quality of the competition was on another level and we will definitely be back on top of our game.
The team should be very proud of their efforts and hopefully this makes them hungrier for the 2014 Australasian competition. We would like to thank all of our supporters and sponsors for their continued support and Mercedes AMG, Jaguar Land Rover and Formula Student for the awards and holding the competition.