The team arrived down at Blyton park around 9am so it was an early start to hopefully make the most of the day. The weather was less than ideal with a damp track and rain with air temperatures around 3°c. The low temperature were great for our engine but not for our team members. The temporary workshop was setup in Blyton parks barn whilst a few of our team members went out onto track to setup a marked 75m straight and the FSUK standardised skidpan setup.
After the track was setup, some small alterations were made to the cars setup with the team adhering to a setup sheet. The car was on track for the first time at approximately 10:30. The first driver of the day was our Formula student veteran and now faculty advisor Brian Houston. The decision was made for him to drive first as he was our sprint and endurance driver from the 2015/16 FSUK event. Therefore he has the most experience with the car and was able to verify the setup was correct and that the car was driving well prior to putting inexperienced drivers in the car. A few laps and some simulated brake tests were executed and the brake bias was adjusted appropriately. Then a few “spirited” laps to assess the cars behaviour in the conditions and also to enjoy the experience of driving Nighthawk.
The next team member in the car was our now Vice Team Principle Pat Calvert who conducted testing and the brake test in the 2015/16 FSUK event. Although he had driven the car before he had not experienced the car at full race pace or at high speed so some time was required to become comfortable with the cars behaviour and pace. Again as the weight distribution of the car had changed some brake tests where conducted to ensure the car braked straight and true. Laps where then made in the car and the pace was increased lap after lap as the confidence Nighthawk grew. A few mistakes were made but this was a way of finding the cars limits in the tricky conditions of the day.
After Pat was confident enough in the car, it was decided to move onto a simulated skid pan. The car behaved well changing direction quickly and holding the line well in the less than ideal conditions of the day. The skidpan highlighted a known behaviour of Nighthawk that we are aiming to eliminate this year. Under hard tight cornering it lifted its inside wheel and as we run an open diff this resulted in a loss of drive preventing the car from performing even better in the skid pan.
After getting the useful data from the skid pan, it was time for one of our new team members to drive Nighthawk – Vice Powertrain leader Harry Miller got in the driver seat and got used to the car very quickly and only had one or two spins in the difficult conditions. He then moved onto the skidpan and gave a very similar result to our other drivers.He loved the experience of driving something like nothing else he had ever driven before .
After Harry’s drive, Nighthawk was brought back into the barn for some check-ups and a few points of wear and tear had been spotted so it was time for some maintenance. Also for the batteries to be charged. From some of the jolts we had noticed our exhaust system had worked loose so this was first on the list. Also the harsh surface at the skidpan had resulted in a puncture in our back left tire. This was a big problem but was rectified temporarily by using a can of easy fix puncture. This was a less than ideal solution but did allow us to carry on collecting data and testing for the rest of the day. The car had also developed an intermittent stall this was diagnosed as a loose fuel pump connection and quickly rectified.
After these problems were fixed it was time for Nighthawk to hit the track again this time with our electrical team leader John Beeney at the wheel. After having difficulty with getting used to the different environment of Nighthawk, he was becoming more comfortable when the car developed a new stalling problem. The car was then brought back into the barn and it was found to be a damaged ignition switch. A solution was found and the car was ready to go out on track. The weather had also cleared up so it was possible for the drone to fly thanks to Octovision Media Ltd. for your help. Sadly as our next driver got in the ignition switched had failed. The remainder of daylight was spent trying to fix this problem but sadly the team ran out of time.
Overall this day was a very successful test day despite the challenging weather conditions. It gave all our new team members chance to see Nighthawk in action and understand what a Formula Student car is designed for and capable of. The day also highlighted the key design points to concentrate on for the 2016/17 season and gave us valuable running data of the previous year’s car. We would like to thank Blyton park for allowing us to use their track and accommodating us. A big thanks to all our sponsors who made this car possible and we look forward to working with you throughout the 2016/17 season.