Super fast students

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The team from the University of Padova, Italy, push its car down to the judges

As the workers still clear away the stands and hospitality marquees from the previous weekend’s British Grand Prix, teams of students from across the world descended into the famous Silverstone pitlane for the annual Formula Student event.

Despite struggling through the blustery conditions, temperamental rain showers, and the fact that most of the teams had been up most of the night still finishing adjustments to their cars, the cheery bunch all seemed to be looking forward to getting their creations onto the hallowed track following a year of design and engineering.

Most of the British entrants are final year students, in some cases graduating days before the event, proudly displaying their final projects and getting the chance to work from the pitlanes still marked with F1 team liveries, logos and even tyre marks.

All the cars were modeled in 3D CAD, with some more comprehensively than others. With many of the teams made of pure automotive and motorsport degree classes, their proficiency for strength testing, FEA analysis, and component design in CAD was pretty impressive.


The team from Delft University, Holland, show off their finished car, and its Catia model

Most teams seemed to have worked with Catia for the chassis, although others modeled the full thing in SolidWorks, while a sparse few were using sponsor Autodesk’s Inventor, or the really professional were really going for it in Pro/Engineer. It was interesting to see that even between the teams with the greater budgets (a lot of the European universities spend a full year traveling to the various international versions and racing) and those without, a lot of the emphasis for modern track-car building was put on the initial 3D CAD model.

Some F1 heavyweights were on hand to offer advice and add to the pressure

And it wasn’t just students at the opening day; on hand were some big guns from the world of F1 racing. Renault F1 managing director Bob Bell; Mercedes (and Michael Schumacer’s personal) race engineer Andrew Shovlin; Virgin Racing technical director Nick Wirth; and even square-jawed, taller-than-you-expect, former-F1 driver David Coulthard were all on site to give a motivational talk, some pearls of wisdom, and kick some tyres in the garages.

With over 2,500 students taking part, and the majority wanting to progress into the automotive and motorsport industry, there was some serious competition to be had even before the cars take to the track for individual time trials, handling and breaking tests over the next three days.

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