As exams and May Week drew to a close and most students returned home for the summer, a small core of FBR members remained in the Dyson Centre and the Oatley Garages. The FBR18 design ethos was simplicity, with a tightly-packaged steel spaceframe, screaming 600cc motorbike engine and simple bodywork. Almost every part of the car is designed by the students in the team and almost every part is manufactured in-house.
With late nights and early mornings a norm for the build-team members, the more advanced parts of the car took shape. A glassfibre-coated, 3D-printed inlet allowed for amazing freedom of form whilst fixing the strength issues the team has encountered in the past. 3D printing was also vital in the construction of our custom steering wheel, with built-in dashboard and datalogging.
As the deadline of the UK competition, the only one FBR is participating in this year, drew closer, more and more milestones were met. The Yamaha R6 engine, something of an heirloom of the team, was heard roaring through its all-new exhaust and inlet system driven by bespoke electronics. The car sat on its wheels for the first time and rolled around on precision-machined suspension uprights sprung by bespoke coilover shock absorbers. Hand laid-up glassfibre and sheet aluminium bodywork brought spirits to a new high and the car was packed, like an odd game of Tetris, into a VW Transporter van for the journey to Silverstone.
Among these was the ever-difficult scrutineering. Formula Student has very stringent rules and regulations and no car is allowed to compete without this rigorous inspection process, which makes sure every single rule is followed. FBR was sadly held up by a few niggling issues in technical scrutineering, such as a leaking sump and seatbelt mount positions. Despite having no drastic problems, this meant it was impossible for the FBR18 to make it through to the tilt, noise and brakes tests until Saturday, when the dynamic (racing) events began.
Next step was the noise test, where the engine is run at idle and over 10,000 RPM to check that it doesn't breach the maximum noise limit. This should have been an easy pass for FBR, though sadly issues with some chafed fuel pump wiring lost valuable hours. With these fixed and the noise test passed, it was time for the FBR18 to take its first tentative steps: the brakes test.
The brakes test is the first time any car actually drives at a Formula Student competition. It has to accelerate up to speed and then lock all four wheels under braking power to prove the system is effective. Technical director Oli Albert fired up the engine and drove the car out for its first baby steps. Although locking one wheel immediately, a promising sign that only bias adjustments would be needed to pass, further issues with differential mounting and chain tension halted proceedings, with the team retiring to the pits for the evening to fix the issues for a final attempt on Sunday.
Even with the disappointment of not getting on track, the team has thoroughly enjoyed the entire process, learned a huge amount and are all ready and raring to keep going, with plans and design for the FBR19 to compete at Silverstone next year already under way.
- Fraser McKay