The 2013-14 season was to be the 3rd year HUFS would compete in the Formula Student UK Competition since forming back in 2011.
The Friday was to prove to be one of the most challenging and critical days as we arrived at scrutineering first thing to have our outstanding issues checked by the scrutineer, upon checking these items they decided that our fuel tank failed to meet one critical rule regarding location of the sight tube. We were distraught by this news as it was a reused design from last year and had already passed in the opinion of the initial scrutineer, however after much debate it was determined that we must address it before we could be deemed a pass. With no choice other than to modify the tank we took the car back to the garage and began to strip everything out in order to remove the tank and modify it, which unfortunately is buried deep within the car and required removal of the harnesses, seat, electronics and firewall in order to access. To further complicate matters we also had our business, design and cost presentations all on the same day. We always knew the static presentations would be difficult this year as we simply did not have a big enough team to devote the manpower to work solely on the presentations, however at a late stage newcomer to the team Charlotte Smith had taken on the mammoth task of managing the business presentation in a hope to salvage as many points from the static presentations as possible. Whilst we worked on removing the fuel tank to make the necessary modifications Charlotte, our new Vice Principal Mike Whiting and Colm Simpson went to the ‘Dragons Den’ to face the gauntlet. In the mean time we got the tank removed but were missing the expertise and a TIG welder required to make the modifications, luckily camaraderie is extremely high at Formula Student and we befriended much appreciated Spaniard with a TIG welder and the skill required to relocate the sight tube outlet of our alloy tank. As we pieced the car back together the time came for our design presentation, which unfortunately is held in the garage so that the judges can inspect the car detail in person. Because we had been forced to strip much of the car in order to address the fuel tank issue the car was a long way from the fully dressed state the judges expect it to be in which was undoubtedly unfavourable for our marks for this section, however we did our best to prevail and immediately after the design presentation got back to refitting the modified tank and reassembling the car whilst leaving team principal Brian Houston in the hands of the judges for the final aspect of the static presentations, the cost report.
With the presentations complete and the car reassembled we wasted no time in getting back to scrutineering and to our joy the judges, who admitted to not expecting to see us back the same day due to the significance of the issue, finally awarded us the much sought after technical sticker. Next was the Tilt Test, shown on the right with Colm Simpson braving the hot seat. Tilting up to 60 degrees simulates 1.7g of cornering force and to pass the car must remain in contact with the platform and show no signs of fluid leaks. Thankfully we sailed straight thought and promptly collected the first of our dynamic scrutineering stickers.
Immediately after, with the day drawing to a close, we rushed to the noise test to try and secure one more crucial scrutineering sticker and get one stage closer to being able to compete in the dynamic events. Last year we failed the noise test which left us trying everything we could with the resources available to reduce the noise and obtain a pass, ultimately requiring a lot of glass fibre wadding and some mesh from one of our trolleys to form a crude baffle in both silencers. As this year we couldn’t afford new exhausts we were forced to reuse our old ones but this time we took the opportunity in advance to more elegantly engineer the same baffle solution which proved to work previously. To our delight this foresight proved to be beneficial with the modifications demonstrating an improved level of attenuation and granting us a much appreciated pass.
This left us with only one more scrutineering test to pass before we could be deemed ready to race, the brake test. With no pun intended the brake test has the ability to make or break any chance at competing in the rest of the dynamic events. It is a very difficult test to pass and for many teams one of the first times their car will have turned it wheels only then to be put under some of the greatest loads it will experience as you are forced to reach as high a speed as possible in a given area and then demonstrate that you can simultaneously lock all four wheels and come to a controlled stop. Last year we broke a CV joint during this test and in the first year we were able to determine post-race that our a-arm failure was initiated during the brake test, however this year we were more confident as we had the benefit of track testing in advance and were confident that our car could stand up to the loads experienced. Regardless however we spent the Friday evening shaking down the car, ensuring that everything was in order, including bleeding the brakes, setting up brake bias and setting suspension settings and geometries in preparation for the following dynamic events. As we arrived at the brake test on Saturday morning and joined the long queue of teams it was apparent that a new challenge would be faced this year as a change in location meant we had a much smaller run up to the brake test, meaning it would be much more difficult to get up to speed. Will Kebell took control of the Challenger Mk2.5 to make our first attempts, it was a tall order for Will who had not yet had any experience driving the car and as he found out it can be a bit of a handful. Will’s chance at driving the car was supposed to be a reward for his exceptional effort and devotion to the project during the build phase, unfortunately due to our lack of tuning time what he was presented with was a car that was extremely difficult to drive and coupled with the short run up and sticky track conditions we could not get enough speed to lock all four wheels simultaneously. From Will’s initial efforts we could also determine that the rears were locking before the fronts so with this in mind we took the car off to the side and adjusted the brake bias at the same time as trying to re-map the RPM bands not tested on the Dyno in order to try and get more usable power from the engine. By the time we had made these modifications there was only 30 minutes remaining before the skid pad closed and we missed our window to compete in it. With this in mind Will voted that Brian Houston took control for what could be our last attempt, with Brian having more experience with the car and our new speculative map modifications we took to the test area once again for once final attempt in the hope we could obtain a quick pass and make it to the skid pan in time to compete. To our relief the modifications worked and we achieved a pass, thus completing all of the scrutineering tasks and freeing us to compete in the other dynamic events. Without Brian even leaving the car we immediately raced around to the skid pad area and joined the queue. As the clock hit 12.30pm we had already entered the hot area of the test and thus were allowed to compete, we could not have cut it any closer being the last car to partake. Having never had the opportunity to take part in the skid pan this was new territory for us but somewhere we were very excited to be. Times are taken for two complete laps in each direction and Brian managed to collect a respectful best time of 6.2s, placing us 39th overall. Although it was apparent that the car was difficult to handle during this test and it appeared that our differential was not locking, however actually competing in this event was a massive achievement for us and the data collected and experience gained provided valuable information for the future.
Having proved that our car was up to the strict safety and technical standards and even setting a time on the Skidpan it was then time to take to the track for the first time for the Sprint Test and see what our car was really capable off. For the sprint event each team can enter two drivers and each driver gets two attempts to set a hot lap, Brian was first up and was itching to demonstrate what our beloved creation was capable of, on the first attempt Brian spun out on a particularly tough part of the track. Claiming afterwards that he was simply ‘finding the limit’, his strategy did seem to work as shown on the right he kept the car just within the limit on the second lap and set a new personal best for the team of 64.5s and placing us 36th overall.
Next up was Colm Simpson, similarly it was his first time in the car but happy that we had set a respectable time it was the perfect opportunity to allow new team members to gain the experience of the challenging FS sprint circuit. Colm set a respectable time of 94.3s in his first lap, collecting no penalties, which in its self is an impressive feat given that having never driven the car before simply making it round the track is an achievement. Unfortunately stalling of the line on his second attempt triggered the timer and he was unable to complete the lap, however with the experience of completing a full lap under his belt he will no doubt be back next year yearning to step it up a level.
With the competition drawing to a close there was only one massive hurdle still to overcome, the Endurance event. Right from the start our goal was to complete the event this year, which consists of a gruelling 22 laps of the endurance circuit (Approx 22km) with a driver change half way through. We were confident that our car was mechanically reliable enough to complete the full length but we were aware that with an incomplete engine map and the car having shown in testing that it struggled to start when hot, we were concerned that we would not be able to make the drivers change if we did not make some improvements. Hence after completing the sprint event we took the car to the hot test area at the end of the pit lane and began working on improving the hot starts and engine tuning, as well as at the same time making some small improvemnts to the cooling system in an attempt to keep the engine temperature as low as possible to lessen the problem. Making these modifications was a difficult and time consuming process, especially as we had to let the engine cool between modifications to ensure it still started cold. We tried to squeeze in some more tuning on Sunday morning and were making some good progress but unforatunatly by setting a time for the sprint test we were allocated a time slot for the endurace, meaning the time we had to work on the car was linited. If you do not set a time during the sprint event as we did last year then you must join a queue and wait untill the other cars have finished the endurance event. The car preformed well on track and was running reliably, keeping it’s cool and looking stong. We even had the blue flag waved at several cars infront allowing us to overtake and shown below is one incident where the car infront spun out on a corner and the marshalls moved some cones and we were allowed to pass without incuring a penality for going off track.
It brought great joy to us to see the first chequered flag indicating the half way mark and the time for the driver change. Immediately the joy turned to nerves as our Vice Principal Mike Whiting was strapped in, finger tentatively hovering about the engine start button waiting for approval to fire up. After what seemed like forever he was checked and approved by the judges to start up. Our hearts stopped for a moment as the engine cranked over and teased us with inclinings of wanting to start, but to not avail as the cranking slowed we could sense the battery giving up and with it or hopes of finishing the endurance. Dejected we had to push the car away from the hot start area knowing that was it for this year, to add insult to injury the heavens opened a mere 30 seconds after leaving the track and the massive downpour meant everyone was forced to change to wet tyres. If we had still been on track or during our driver change we would have been allocated and additional 10 minutes to allow the switch to wets, frustratingly this would no doubt have been sufficient to allow the engine to cool to the point where we had it starting reliably.
Regardless of this final disappointment we had to hold our heads high and remember that we had still come much further than ever before, having only every being able to manage 6 laps of the endurance, with an electrical failure in the first year and from overheating and blowing off a coolant pipe last year. Furthermore we were able to bring the car back to Hull in one piece with the knowledge that with some more tuning time the car would be a reliable test platform for future developments.