Warwick’s Formula Student

Formula Student is a unique project that gives engineering students real hands-on experience. The project involves the design, construction, testing, marketing and completion of a single seat performance race vehicle. The idea for the Formula Student competition was initially conceived in the United States in 1981 and since then similar events have been started in the UK, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Germany and Italy. The UK Formula Student competition has been run by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers since 1998. Over the years it has been held at various race tracks around the UK but has now found its home at Silverstone. There are five entry classes: four focusing on cars developed to varying levels and one looking at cars running on alternative fuels. This year Warwick is entering one vehicle into the most advanced design level of the competition.

The design brief given to each team in this category is to design a prototype vehicle which costs under $25,000 (approx. £17,500). This prototype should be designed for production of 1000 cars per year. Strict design guidelines are given in a 96-page brief to ensure both the safety of the vehicle and fair competition. Also, very high performance objectives focusing on acceleration, braking and handling are given. These must be obtained whilst maintaining a low cost, reliable and easily maintainable vehicle. Other factors such as aesthetics, manufacturability, use of common parts and marketing are also set out to focus engineers on the everyday problems experienced in industry. Points are awarded out of 1000 with a mix of static and dynamic events. Static events include technical and safety scrutiny, tilt test, brake and noise test for which no points are awarded. A presentation is then given with points awarded for design, cost and presentation. There are five dynamic tests which the car is tested on. First, the ‘Skid Pan’ which clocks the fastest time round a figure-of-eight track; second, the ‘1km Sprint’ that tests lower and higher end acceleration and top speed; next, the ’75m Acceleration’ and ’22km Endurance’ tests which test the cars reliability and lastly ‘Fuel Economy’ that tracks the cars’ use of fuel over this distance.

Warwick has entered a team into the top Class 1 event for the past eight years. The team’s best ever finish is 23rd place taking in account that other teams benefit from much larger budgets. This year’s team is comprised of fourteen final year Masters of Engineering students from Mechanical, Systems, Electrical and Manufacturing & Mechanical streams and one MSc Engineering student. The group brings together a diverse group of individuals who have experience ranging from Bentley and Westfield Cars to Goldman Sachs and Faber Maunsell. This year’s team has been dealt a particularly difficult task with several key sponsors having to withdraw their sponsorship of the project due to cost-cutting measures. As such, each design decision has required even more attention and thought. More information on the team can be found at: www.formulastudent.warwick.ac.uk.

The design phase of the car has now finished and the production stage is well on its way. With 914 individual parts (not including nuts and bolts!) this has been a mammoth task with each part having to be analysed and iterated to an optimum solution using modelling software. Having completed this lengthy process the sourcing of these parts was the next step. Various components are produced and constructed within the Engineering and International Manufacturing Centres. Others require outsourcing to specialist automotive racing suppliers. Jaguar Land Rover have continued their sponsorship of the project through production of the car’s body work ensuring the vehicle will again have impressive aesthetics. Simpact will continue to produce the high performance crash structure the car requires to meet strict guidelines. This year’s chassis is currently in production and requires 83 laser cuts to be made to tube sections to allow for the complete construction. The team’s main sponsor UBS has offered invaluable support which has enabled the team to develop such an advanced vehicle. This support illustrates their continued identification of Warwick and engineering students as some of the top candidates for financial careers and their strong position within this industry. Collaborations with other firms such as KVR, Varley Red Top and Ricardo have helped the project design a car which looks to be the best vehicle Warwick has ever produced.

With 106 teams already confirmed and 32 teams on the reserve list from across the world, ranging from Iran to South Korea, the 2009 competition promises to be the biggest and best yet. This year’s team will certainly be looking to realise their potential and produce Warwick’s highest ever finish.

The Warwick Formula Student team will compete with national and international teams in the Formula Student competition to held at Silverstone from 16 to 19 July 2009.


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