Gearing up for Formula Student 2016 at Silverstone, the Strathclyde team are already looking forward to competing against the other UK teams. But it’s more than the thrill of racing a fast car, the road to success is filled with blood, sweat and a lot of welding…
What is Formula Student?
Formula Student is the world’s biggest motorsport competition, involving University teams from countries worldwide.
Every year, the University of Strathclyde Motorsport Team (USM) design, build, market and race a single seat racing car. The team is made up of entirely from students from the Engineering and Business Faculties who devote their own time.
Strathclyde has been competing since 1999 and has gone from strength to strength, building on each year’s experience.
In 2014, the team gained first place in the “Cost and Sustainability” category, for the second year running.
Team Manager, Azim Din and Vice Team Manager, Colin Waddell talks through the stages.
A winning design
Officially, the project kicks off at the start of term. However, for the die-hards, the race was on the minute last year’s chequered flag was raised. The team spend the summer re-evaluating last year’s car and performance, coming armed with improvement ideas at the first design kick-off meeting."We learn so much from our previous cars"
“You have to make significant changes – you just can’t take the same car back”, said Colin.
The team not only look to Formula One cars for inspiration, but their own creations (and the odd sneaky peak from their competitors too).
Azim added: “We learn so much from our own previous cars. You can learn more at the actual competition than you do working on the project throughout the year, seeing how the other teams performs and the individual designs.”
Designing, building and racing at car at Silverstone is a costly business and the team are responsible for raising money to fund it.
The team rely heavily on sponsorship and donations from industry, usually in the form of materials and equipment. This year, the team are focusing on aerodynamics but that comes at a cost in terms of materials and experimenting.
So for the first time this year, the team raised money through crowdfunding which was very successful, meeting their target.
The team believe their success is down to the fact they are such a long, established and well known team. They are very passionate about what they do so friends, family and alumni want to get behind them.
Building the car"Welding is something I only picked up being part of the team"
The team are responsible for the complete build of the car, including the chassis, structure and the engine. With everything in the one place, including turning and welding facilities. The DMEM Department is the place to be.
“There’s a lot of welding involved. Welding is something I picked up being part of the team - I never had any experience of that before”, said Azim. The manufacturing phase will eventually lead to the creation of a prototype car with just an engine, chassis and wheels, which should be ready for the spring.
The test phase
While testing is an important part of the project, so is winning the race so here it’s all about acceleration.
For safety reasons, the maximum speed limit is 70mph for cars in the race.
It’s also the time to test reliability.
“If your car breaks down, that’s a problem”, said Colin.
Who gets the nerve-wracking job of testing the car? It’s all hands-on-deck and as many member of team as possible get involved in this stage. This is also where the team develop their drivers, talent-spotting drivers for the big race.
Most of the road-testing is done in large car parks but the team are always on the lookout for new venues.
The big race
Sadly, it’s only a select few who can take part in the race. Eight drivers are selected – two for each of the four racing categories. And the rest of the team need to watch with bated breath from the side lines.
Azim said: “Breaking down is the biggest fear – it’s nerve-wracking to watch”.
This year’s race takes place in July at Silverstone.
Get involved"We're entirely student-led so it's huge amount of personal investment"
Team Manager, Azim Din, is in his fifth year of MEng Mechanical Engineering with Aeronautics.
His involvement in the project has landed him his dream job with a high profile company, working on vehicle dynamics- something he only learned through the project.
Even if you don’t know your slipstreams from your shakedowns, you can still get involved in the team.
You don’t need to have an interest in motorsports. It’s more important to be committed and motivated.
Collin said: “We’re entirely student-led so it takes a huge amount of personal investment”.