credit: Ethan Gardener.

Exeter finds formula for success in international racing competition

A team of intrepid Engineering students have pitted their skills, expertise and enthusiasm against the world’s best at a special racing event held at Silverstone, the home of British motorsport.

Final-year students from the University of Exeter have recently returned from competing in the Formula Student contest, the biggest student engineering competition of its kind and which attracted 114 teams from 38 countries worldwide.

The team had designed and built their car in a single academic year, and it was subjected to rigorous technical and safety scrutineering by event judges. Having passed the tests with flying colours – something not all teams achieved – the team then competed on the hallowed Silverstone circuit in both a sprint, and 22-lap endurance race.

Although some technical difficulties meant the team could not complete the endurance race, the Exeter team finished a creditable 80th place overall – ahead of many of their British university competitors.

The team’s supervisor, Dr Steve Childe, said the team should feel “rightly proud” of their achievements. He said: “The experience was a very real demonstration that in engineering it is important to get everything right and on time, and not simply producing an elegant design.  The students gained invaluable experience not just in design but in managing cost and time, and in working as a team.”

The Formula Student competition challenges teams to design their car as a prototype for a production vehicle.  The design and its business concept are pitched to investors at the event, with points being gained for these aspects, as well as the performance of the car on the track. 

Dr Childe said: “The team had to make a business presentation at the event, and were also judged on the car’s design and projected cost of manufacturing the car in volume. Having passed this section, and the scrutineering with flying colours, the team had to make some adjustments to fix a clutch problem before taking part in the brake test.  Those tweaks meant we had less time to prepare for the main races, but we managed to secure points in the sprint event.”

The following day saw the team compete in the endurance event, a 22-lap race against the clock with a time-limited driver change and hot re-start at the half-way point. However, unexpected wear in the suspension bushings meant that the steering stiffened up, eventually resulting in the car having to pull out of the event.

This was the second time Exeter has competed at the Formula Student event, having secured the Best New Team Trophy in 2013.

Dr Childe said: “Although the car was lighter and in many ways better than last year’s, its success was limited by a couple of very small problems. We now look forward to 2015 and hope that Engineering students from all year groups, and other parts of the University, will join in to build on what we have learned.”

The team received financial support from the University’s Annual Fund, as well as local sponsorship.

Date: 1 August 2014

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