Student speed demons take on the world in university race car competition

Student news

Wednesday 04 July 2012

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Students at Coventry University are getting ready to go wheel-to-wheel with over 130 rival universities at Silverstone next week, just days after Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton vie for victory in the British Grand Prix.

The Phoenix Racing team, which is made up of 24 motorsport engineering students from the University, has built a £12,000 single-seater racing car to take part in the 2012 Formula Student competition – the world’s largest student motorsport event.

Team members are hoping to improve on their impressive performance in the 2011 contest, in which they finished in the top 20 overall – ranking 6th best UK university – and clinched the ‘Most Fuel-efficient Car’ award.

The team will be up against student squads from around the globe, from Europe and the United States to South Africa and the Middle East.

This year’s 100mph machine has been built from scratch by the students in the University’s state-of-the-art motorsport workshop, and has been hailed by the Phoenix Racing squad as the fastest, lightest and most sophisticated car in the team’s 11 year history.

It weights just 200 kilograms and features a 65bhp Kawasaki motorbike engine which can power the car from zero to 60mph in less than three seconds. The driver will change gear with an F1-style pneumatic paddle-shift gearbox, and will steer around the corners with the help of a clever hydraulic anti-roll system.

The students even drafted in colleagues from the University’s world-renowned automotive design course to help style the car’s carbon fibre bodywork, ensuring that it not only performs well, but looks the part out on the track.

Stuart Eardley, third year motorsport engineering student and Phoenix Racing team leader, said:

We can’t wait to get out there on the circuit at Silverstone. This year we’re trying to raise our game significantly, and we have two key aims: to win the fuel efficiency award for the second year running, and to finish in the top 10 overall. It’s an ambitious target, but we think we’ve come up with a pretty innovative design which should give us an edge over a lot of teams.

That said, Formula Student isn’t solely about clinching the victory – it gives us all a huge boost in the employability stakes. Most employers are aware of the event and how the team work and technical aspects can benefit potential future employees, so by performing well it gives us an opportunity to stand out and get exposure for ourselves as the next generation of engineers.

The Formula Student competition, which is run by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and supported by many luminaries in the Formula One world, pits universities against each other in a test of technical and driving skill.

Students must demonstrate creativity in design, technical understanding and – above all – good team work and communication to overcome the challenges along the way and ensure the project is completed on time and on budget.

The cars are then tested and judged by a panel of industry professionals, who score it on different dynamic aspects such as acceleration, grip, manoeuvrability and engine efficiency.

This year’s Formula Student competition takes place next week on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit over a four day period beginning Thursday 12th July.