Cardiff University have become the first UK winners of Formula Student (FS), an engineering and design showpiece challenge organised by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), however the victory was overshadowed by the no-show of top European universities to the 2017 UK event.
The normally highly competitive German university teams – many backed directly by automotive companies – along with those from Holland and Switzerland, chose to shun the UK event with some citing costs and rule changes, leaving the field open for UK Universities to take three of the top five places.
The competition, which challenges student engineers to design, build and race a single seat racing car in one year, is billed as a global competition and reportedly saw more than 2,000 students from 24 countries in the paddocks of Silverstone on 20-23 July.
Luca Di Marino and Alex Goff, joint team leaders at Cardiff University, said: “We could never have dreamt of this in a million years. In all the years of competing at Formula Student, Cardiff have never been victorious so all credit must go to the team for a great effort – it’s beyond our wildest dreams.
“The other teams were great and we just want to thank the university as well as our families and friends for their support. We couldn’t have done it without them!”
However this year’s competition was dampened by the lack of key competition, having a knock-on effect to the learning experience for what was the 20th UK FS.
“Even though we are no way near in the same league as the top tier teams and such, the best contacts and help I have received in and out of the events is from the Euro teams,” said one UK competitor, who wished to remain anonymous.
“We won’t be on the same level for years (or ever), but it is that we could have this network from them and learn a lot from their cars which is valuable.
“If IMechE doesn’t want to adapt, then the Euro teams will continue to thrive and the UK teams will be left behind.”
Speaking to one of the German teams, the costs presented to them by the UK FS competition were ‘prohibitive’. The event at Silverstone costs in the region of £2,000 without camping or travel factored in, while the comparative FS Germany events cost roughly €750 with camping at the similarly F1-level Hockenheim race track.
While overlapping events in Germany and Italy will have affected entries (due to the change of date for the UK F1 Grand Prix), it is clear from speaking to teams that costs and uncertain rule changes also impacted this year’s event – with only 13 teams making it through to and completing the Dynamic Events.
“We can’t answer for the German teams, but the Institution’s FS event format hasn’t changed substantially this year and we would’ve welcomed their involvement this year, as we have done previously,” said an IMechE spokesperson.
Andrew Deakin, Chairman of Formula Student, said: “It’s great to see a UK team doing well and to win the overall competition. Cardiff Racing’s entry was fantastic, their car was innovative and that showed with their performance on the track.
“It has been a superb competition overall, with the rain holding off for the endurance event – all teams seemed to really enjoy themselves. Congratulations to all who took part and we look forward to welcoming everyone back for a bigger and better event next year.”
As part of the competition, cars are judged on their speed, acceleration, handling and endurance in a series of time-trial races, while the teams are tested on their design, costing and business presentation skills.
Dozens of Formula Student alumni have progressed to Formula 1, and hundreds more are now working at the world’s largest automotive firms helping to design and engineer the cars of tomorrow.