Racing into Brighton

We were inspired by a visit from McLaren Automotive’s Senior Powertrain Design Engineer, Harley Gasson, today.

Harley, Automotive Engineering MSc alumnus, made a pit stop in Cockcroft to share his experience of life in the fast lane at McLaren with students. They also had time to chat to him afterwards and find out more about what it’s like to work at such a high profile engineering organisation.

It was great to hear first-hand about the world of motor racing as our project heads towards it’s next key deadline, finalising the design of our racing car.

F1 ambition

The Formula Student competition is the only way to get a foot inside proper motorsport and is the gateway for new engineering talent to make a name for themselves in a tough business. I know this first hand as a former race-team owner. To be brutally honest I chose my course on the basis that it participated in Formula Student!

I am the team leader of Brighton Racing Motors. The lecturers are there to support the team but cannot build the actual car – that is up to us, the students! I act as the person, together with our Deputy Team Leader, Victor Fernandes, responsible for submitting all the required documentation of performance, designs, safety and costing for the competition.
There are technically two parts of the competition; the racing, and the business.

The imaginary scenario is that we are an up-and-coming engineering company who has to build a small niche Formula racing car, to see if it is at all feasible. We are supplied with a cost-unit graph and then we have to go through the engineering and business process of building a racing car. In the end we have to submit a business case highlighting all our major decisions – and this is all given a score. If we submit a document late there are minus points for us.
The other part is the actual test and racing at Silverstone where we get points for various different challenges the organisers set for us. It can be argued which of the parts are the most exciting, but in my mind it is definitely the Silverstone part!

In essence we are six different teams:

  • Propulsion System
  • Chassis Kinematics
  • Chassis Structure and Vehicle Performance Prediction
  • Chassis Impact
  • Aerodynamics

Each team consists of 3 – 5 people and are each responsible for a major part of the car. I am personally responsible for simulating and evaluating the layout of the car, doing the Vehicle Performance Prediction.

My task is to gather and evaluate data and take decisions on the cars performance and layout to make sure it drives the best it can within the Formula Student regulations. I have previous experience in motorsport, so this is an interesting challenge for me, as my dream job is to be a Race-Team Engineer.

Every Wednesday we have a team brief with our group where we go through the progress we have made, and the challenges we have faced. These challenges are discussed with Dr. Daniel Coren, our coordinator, and Simon Harvey. They help us with the engineering aspect so we can be sure about our decisions. This is supported by a monthly meeting where we present our groups’ progress in front of the whole team, to keep everybody up to speed.

We are not a group of individuals doing individual projects that sums up to a racing car. We must work together otherwise the car will simply not work, this is great as it is a real-world scenario.