Engineering students on track to beat personal best in racing car event

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University of Portsmouth racing car designers are hoping to prove their mettle at Silverstone this week in the 20th anniversary of the international motorsport contest Formula Student.

It will be the 10th time a Portsmouth team has competed in the event, which challenges students to build and race a single-seater racing car in just one year. This year’s designers and racers aim to mark the occasion by beating the University’s personal best.

“We’ve been working really hard alongside our studies and would love to achieve our best ever result,’ says vice-team leader, Ed Clapham, who has been working on the design and build of the University’s car while completing his final year of a Product Design and Innovation degree. “We’re up against some really good teams and we’re taking the competition seriously, but it isn’t just about that. There’s a really big buzz at the event, everyone just wants to talk about the cars. Because the teams put in so much effort, we all appreciate each other’s hard work.”

Run by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, this year’s Formula Student will see 130 teams from over 30 countries competing in the five-day event (July 11-15). Competitors design and build the cars at their universities before heading to the Northamptonshire racing circuit, where the cars are tested for speed, acceleration and endurance. The teams are also judged on design, costing and business presentation skills.

The University of Portsmouth team changes from year to year but many participants contribute to the project throughout their courses. Students in engineering, design, business, marketing and several other study areas offer their talent and skills to the project.

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Competitors receive points for each section of the event and the team with the most overall points is crowned winner. The Portsmouth team has previously ranked mid table and aims to improve on that.

New innovations this year include a wireless data logging system which will allow the team to monitor engine vitals, including temperature and oil pressure, in real time. This means they can resolve issues during the competition. Team leader Adam Tunbridge said: “We would like to improve the reliability of the car, we’ve had a few issues in the past, and we would like to do significantly better in point terms. It’s good to aim for something.“

Also new for this year is a second team of students who are working on the design of an electric car. They will take part in the design and business presentation aspects of the contest and hope to go on to produce a car in future years.

“We wanted to look into future and emerging technologies and open the project up to more people, including electronic engineering students,” said team leader Oliver Plucknett. “We’re incredibly nervous about taking part as the judging can be brutal but it’s a good way of preparing us for the demands of industry.”

Formula Student Chairman Andrew Deakin has highlighted the commitment and hard work of all participants. He said: “To design and build a competitive racing car in one year, whilst studying for a degree, is no mean feat. The level of innovation, commitment and ambition that the teams display is incredible and it’s very exciting to see their hard work pay off.”

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