From total triumph in England in 2012 to a surprising seventeenth place in 2013.
This summer’s Formula Student competitions might have gotten off to a more positive start.
But the German races in early August went better for the Chalmers team, who won fourth overall place at Hochenheimring race track.
As a bonus, the chalmerists ranked third for business presentation, which represents a key part of the competition. They also garnered a fifth-place win for the design portion.
”We had a good feeling when we traveled to Germany. It was absolutely amazing to see what a difference the team managed to achieve in just three weeks,” says Marcus Lindner, project manager for Chalmers Formula Student.
Formula Student challenges students from around the world to spend a year designing, manufacturing, and competing with a formula car. The car is assessed in terms of maneuverability, acceleration and endurance, and representatives from industry examine each team’s expertise in engineering and business, along with presentation skills. The car should also be designed so that 1000 models can be manufactured in a cost-effective manner.
Forced to pull out
As is so often the case, it was the margins that made the difference. After last year’s triumphant overall victory in the world’s biggest technology competition for engineering students, it was, to say the least, a very psyched-up team that traveled to Silverstone to defend the gold trophy in early July.
But things did not unfold exactly as planned and hoped. In the final, technical portion, the Chalmers team was forced to pull out, thus missing out on many important points.
”We had a very serious situation on our hands after Silverstone. The result was not what we had expected, and we had to pull out of the last event due to technical errors. This meant we lost several hundred points, making it impossible to achieve a high ranking,” says Marcus Lindner.
Best Swedish team
Despite the mishap, Chalmers ended up in seventeenth place and became the highest-ranked Swedish team, in front of Karlstad University (19) and Linköping University (63).
”We knew we had a very powerful car and we were well-prepared, but the pieces simply did not fall into place. Even worse, morale in the team was very poor. So we had to go home and examine what we did wrong both as engineers and colleagues.”
Rebooting pays off
The Chalmers Formula Student team came limping home to Gothenburg to lick its wounds, synthesize its experiences and recharge for the German edition, which was held at the prestigious Hochenheimring track in Germany in early August – a race in which Chalmers took third place last year.
”The car was repaired and we managed to test it a few hundred kilometers and do even more preparation. We left for Germany feeling good, we were able to maintain a sense of teamwork and keep the mood up,” says Marcus Lindner.
And the reboot paid off immediately. Chalmers team was rewarded with fourth place overall in the weekend’s races. In the sub-areas Business Plan Design and Engineering, Chalmers came third and fifth. The picture, inset, shows happy third prizewinners Chad Thomas and Maria Ludvigsson.
”It was truly amazing to see what a difference the team managed to achieve in just three weeks! That we did so well in these areas is proof that our methods, engineering and education are absolutely world class! And our dynamic performance, especially in the sprint event, puts us at the very top, proving that Chalmers is a top university at the international level,”says Marcus Lindner.
How satisfied are you with the results?
”England was not a good race for us, but we showed that we had potential in spite of it all. Errors can always slip in, but it does not mean that Formula Student has failed as an education project, on the contrary! The competition in Germany is very, very steep and the teams compete at a very high level. The end result of fourth place is very good, even though we know we had a little more to give.
Eight points short of the winner’s circle
Competition at the Hochenheimring was fierce, with very small margins. Chalmers missed a place at the podium by just eight points, and was just 30 points shy of second place.
”The fact that Chalmers has never placed below fourth place in the races we entered since 2011 shows that we have very talented engineers, and that our methods and training are top class.”
What lessons will you take home with you to Chalmers?
”That we have done well with what we wanted to achieve and that our methods are sound. We focused on light weight and efficiency, and it paid off well in all the races. We increased our focus on composite components and adhesives, giving us great advantages in terms of weight and teaching the engineers about the materials and production methods of the future.
”We also know there is much potential for improvement and that we can offer an even better education to proceed with our vision of creating the engineers of the future,” summarizes Marcus Lindner.
Now what? Will there be more competitions for CFS13?
” By the looks of things now, the 2013 combustion car that competed in races in both Germany and England will not be running in any more races this year.”
Will the public get another chance to see this year’s car?
”Yes, we will be working on an event where the car and the team are presented to the public. The engineers’ final presentation will be open to the public and take place during the latter part of September, so stay tuned for that! We will also participate in a showcase event along with other Swedish teams on September 20-21 during the STCC race at Mantorp Park.
Formula Student is a sustainable project
On the surface, a race car might not be perceived as a particularly sustainable project, but Marcus Lindner argues that this is not the case:
”This car is purely a consequence of good engineering, and engineering is the most important thing we can provide to achieve a sustainable future. The engineers we train are highly sought after on the labour market in many different areas, both in Sweden and abroad,” he says.
Text: Michael Nystås
Photo: Klaus Scheuplein, Richard Grams and Kimmo Hirvonen, Formula Student Germany (FSG)
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