They accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in less than 4 seconds, take corners with almost two times gravitational acceleration, and have a weight-to-power ratio of 2 kg per hp. No, we’re not talking about Porsches, Ferraris, or Lamborghinis, but Formula Student cars. Only a select few know exactly what goes into these small race cars and what the teams of students do to build these rockets.
MANN+HUMMEL is also involved in Formula Student, including supporting the race team from the University of Stuttgart. As a former member of that team I’d like to take a look behind the scenes with you and reveal how these vehicles are developed.
Race series/construction competition
How do you encourage young students to spend extra time alongside their studies? You let them build a race car and set up a competition in which they are pitted against each student teams. Formula Student is an international university construction championship, where it’s not just the best lap time that determines the winner. The winner is the team that strikes the right balance between performance, costs, marketing strategy and technical know-how. Since the venues and participants are international, the official language is English – a bit like everyday working life @MANN+HUMMEL.
There’s more than one way to win a race in Formula 1
The basic regulations for Formula Student allow for lots of design freedom and contain mainly safety-related guidelines. The most important technical specifications are the maximum engine displacement, which is 610 ccm, and the use of an air restrictor with a maximum diameter of 19 mm. There is also a specification which states that a new vehicle must be built every year. This results in lots of different designs. From 10-inch to 15-inch tyres, 1-cylinder to 4-cylinder engines, latticed tubular frames to carbon fibre monocoques – the competitions have got it all, and each design has its ‘raison d’être’.
Friend not foe
If you attend any of the numerous competitions, you will quickly notice that there is an unusual atmosphere. Instead of the usual competitiveness, the teams are very friendly towards each other. They even help each other out. If any parts of the vehicles get damaged, they swap tools, spare parts and even whole engines.
No pain, no gain in Formula 1
The exact schedule is left to each individual team. In Stuttgart, development from the initial design concept to the finished vehicle takes approximately 8 months. The new season kicks off in September. The team is a mix of experienced members, who have been in the team for two or three years and take on leadership roles, and new members who are enriching the team with fresh, new ideas. The first task is to come up with concepts. Teamwork is key here, which is why this work is often done over a weekend spent together in the Black Forest or at Lake Constance. At the weekly team and team leader meetings, progress is monitored to ensure that all 40 students are moving in the same direction. The construction work begins in October. The entire vehicle is initially drawn up as a CAD model. During the monthly design presentations, the design solutions are assessed and problem areas are discussed as a group. Production of the parts then begins in January. The students work on the machines themselves and so learn the subtle difference between a good and a not-so-good design drawing. Complex parts are produced by industry partners. MANN+HUMMEL also makes a significant contribution in this area. Once all the parts have been produced, the vehicle can be assembled and then presented to the public at the start of April. This signals the start of the testing phase in preparation for the competition.
Worth the effort
The Formula Student community met last weekend for the German leg of the competition at the Hockenheimring. 115 teams made the journey from 33 countries, including the University of Stuttgart team, which is supported by MANN+HUMMEL. Given that the team were the overall winners last year, expectations were high. After a very exciting competition, the team weren’t quite able to defend their title but second place in the overall results and first place in the cost event were reason enough to celebrate. The smiling faces at the awards ceremony proved that all the stresses and strains of the last few months were worth it.
Taking part in the Formula Student competition is a great experience. You can have a go at being a real engineer and you gain vital practical experience. You also learn lots of processes and techniques that you will come across in your professional career and enhances your studies. It is great that MANN+HUMMEL is involved and is actively supporting the training of budding engineers.
The University of Stuttgart’s current vehicle, the F0711-8, features a carbon fibre monocoque front end and flange-mounted steel latticed tubular rear. The vehicle is powered by a modified Honda CBR 600 RR racing motorbike engine. Adapted camshafts, a reengineered crankshaft, self-developed gearbox, active intake manifolds and a dry-sump system are just a few of the drive train’s features. The handling can be adjusted by modified Formula 3 dampers and an electronically adjustable stabiliser. The wheel carriers are aluminium-sintered and connected to the chassis via carbon fibre control arms. A DRS system independently regulates the deployment of the wings when driving. It is turned on in under 80 ms by an electro-pneumatic switching system which removes the need for a clutch pedal. All relevant chassis and engine data is transferred via telemetry and the traction control developed by the students themselves helps to transfer the power to the road.