Today’s Formula One drivers can spend up to 30 days in the simulator during a season. Although some of this time is spent re-familiarising themselves with the tracks, the main aim is to develop the performance of the car. Simulator technology has advanced to such an extent that the models can now replicate real world conditions with impressive accuracy. This allows simulators to be used as an engineering tool, which can test and develop the effect of suspension designs, aeromaps and setup changes, with the driver acting as a part of the toolchain.
As simulators continue to play such a major role in both driver and racecar development, their use has trickled down into nearly every tier of motorsport – including Formula Student. To become the motorsport engineers of tomorrow, students have to meet the demands of modern motorsport jobs, which now require experience in simulation and mathematical modelling. The Formula Student competition provides a perfect opportunity for aspiring engineers to learn and showcase these talents.
One team which benefits from the use of a simulator is the Chalmers University of Technology. The Swedish team, which achieved an impressive 6th place in last year’s Class 1 UK competition, utilises the Cruden A646-D3 simulator to educate both their drivers and engineers on the effect of setup changes. “It is so easy to change the setup in the simulator, it allows us to get a first glimpse of how the cars’ mechanical grip changes with different setups,” explains Axel Niklasson, one of the drivers, who also developed the pedal box and brake design. “Usually we do ten minute stints with quick setup changes and as a driver it’s great to feel the immediate effect of a change, rather than having to wait for the mechanics.”
Using the simulator to quickly refine the setup not only maximises time at the track, it also gives the opportunity to practice race engineering, improving the team’s efficiency as well. Furthermore, the accuracy of the simulator model has led to results that match expectations; boosting the confidence of the team and allowing them to exploit other capabilities. “This is the first year that Chalmers Formula Student will use a Drag Reduction System on the rear wing,” highlights Niklasson. “We have used the simulator model to incorporate this as well and it has helped to give us a first indication of how much cornering you can do with the rear wing open.”
Moreover, this simulator is part of a University-wide project called CASTER (Chalmers Automotive Simulator Technology Education Research). Although the university purchased the simulator, CASTER is run entirely by students, quite similar to the way in which students run a Formula Student team. The Cruden platform has been integrated into four courses for both undergraduate and masters level degrees at Chalmers University. “We try to inspire and create young engineers who have a better understanding of what their design will result in,” explains Jon Jaleby, project manager of CASTER. “For example, we are involved in a first year course for mechanical engineering students on Matlab. Our involvement enables students to understand the importance and potential of a tool such as Matlab, by applying their knowledge to a real problem.”
Students can sign up to be a member of the CASTER programme where they can develop their vehicle dynamics skills as well as using CASTER as a platform to engage with industry professionals. “We guide students to learn more about vehicle dynamics by working with the internal models of Cruden’s Panthera simulator software to create a more dynamic learning process,” highlights Jon Jaleby. Panthera is a software suite run by all Cruden simulators (although they can be integrated to run on other software) and uses high-end physics and an excellent rendering engine. It also contains controllers for motion platforms, steering feedback, pedals, dashboard, audio as well as a scripting engine to customise the simulation.
One of these projects has been the collaboration with the Chalmers Formula Student team, where members of CASTER have developed a sim version of the 2017 car for the drivers to practice on, ready for the competitions, this summer. “The Formula Student team is made up of students who only stay for one year, so their focus is more at component design level. This is one of the many reasons why CASTER was founded by Håkan Richardson, who used to be part of the Formula Student Team.”
Håkan is now working with the Simulator of Polestar Cyan Racing, competing with Volvo in the World Touring Car Championship. Jon is working with other CASTER and Formula Student colleagues to run a team in the European GT4 Series and the majority of CASTER alumni have secured jobs in the automotive and motorsport sectors, particularly in simulator roles.
“Many of the engineers at Cruden spent time in Formula Student while at university themselves,” explains Martijn de Mooij, technical development manager at Cruden. “It is arguably the best way for students to prepare for a career in the motorsports or automotive industries, particularly as the Cruden hardware and software is open architecture. We also assist universities by offering discounts on our simulators. Working with a development tool such as a Cruden DiL Simulator is vital experience for the aspiring modern-day vehicle engineer.”
“Like any engineering tool, a DiL simulator is only as good as the engineers working with it. With DiL simulators being used intensively throughout the motorsports and automotive industries, there is high demand for young engineers with simulator experience. Formula Student has always been about challenging students to develop vehicles at the forefront of technology. A Cruden DiL Simulator is very much ‘at home’ in such an environment!”
With the ever-increasing potential of simulators in high end motorsport, there are now more simulator engineering jobs on the market than ever before. CASTER provides an excellent opportunity for students to develop their skills and knowledge through the use of the Cruden simulator technology and the application of the Formula Student competition.