On 13 October 2013, a day noted for its heavy rainfall, the Goodwood Motor Circuit hosted the 15th Greenpower National Finals. Seventy-three cars from across the UK and one from Alabama competed in the main event, the IET Formula 24 Final. Thirty-one cars, including the US car and two from Poland, competed in the senior races, IET Formula 24+ and the Corporate Challenge.
Mike Howell, Volunteer Manager for Greenpower said that, despite the rain: “It was great to see that teams and supporters were not going to allow this to dampen their enthusiasm. There was also a fantastic team of volunteers on hand with over 60 people helping out throughout the day, an exceptional group of people without whom we would not be able to run our events throughout the year.”
Among the volunteers from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers was Andrew McLachlan FIMechE. Andrew commented: “Local members, in particular, dedicate much of their valuable time to supporting teams and marshalling, judging and awarding prizes at the National Finals.”
Andy added that he works with Year 5 and Year 6 children at his nearby primary school: “I support the Goblins [Greenpower’s 9-11 year-olds competition] in particular because I’m a great believer that you have to grasp their interest in engineering as early as possible!”
“The Greenpower National Finals take place over two days at Goodwood, but they represent the efforts of hundreds of members of the Institution throughout the country and throughout the past year. These are the STEM ambassadors and volunteers who help with the construction of the cars and the building of the teams in the schools and colleges, and who assist at the regional heats from which the winners come forward to the finals. Without them, the finals couldn't take place at all.”
Alongside Andy was his colleague in the South East Region, Mike Croker MIMechE MIoA, Treasurer of the Automotive Division Southern Centre (ADSC) and strong supporter of Greenpower. The ADSC sponsored the Best Engineered Car award on behalf of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and both Mike and Andy spent much of the day examining the cars in order to make the award.
Mike commented: “Andy and I, and many of our colleagues in the Division, believe that Greenpower competitions facilitate an important and lasting physical connection with mechanical and electrical engineering, and it’s a great way to channel understanding of the real machines and processes that keep society going.”
“It was an exciting day, although I was generally ensconced in the rudimentary pit garages scrutinising and judging the cars whenever they were stationary! The judging is subjective, so Andy and I worked closely, and we also drew in some of the Greenpower event managers, as they have got to know the cars over the course of the year. We narrowed it down to about 10 strong cars: assessed on concept (controls, weight, transmission, cooling, aerodynamics); design detail; and build quality. Twin Cambs V and Bernard were the top two: it was very close, but we awarded Bernard the prize of Best Engineered Car, on behalf of the Institution.”
As well as Mike and Andy’s much-valued presence at Goodwood, visitors to the event included Roger Dilley FIMechE, Chairman of Wessex Region, and Dal Koshal FIMechE, Chairman of Sussex and Surrey Area, who brought along a group of students from Brighton University.
Mike’s feelings about the day, and future competitions, remained positive (despite the weather): “The spirit of the competition and the enthusiasm of all the participants came shining through. What makes me want to take part is the ethos of the movement: I believe we need to reconnect youth with engineering, and Greenpower is a jolly good way of doing that. There are times when it’s cold, wet and raining, but I do remain committed to Greenpower’s push to bring engineering, through Goblins events and the other races, into schools and inspire future generations.”
Andy concluded: “The work that has been put into Greenpower by volunteers and STEM ambassadors, so many of whom are members of the Institution, is vital to the success of the events and to the inspiration of the children. It’s part of our CPD as well as being intrinsically rewarding in itself.”
The Institution offers its congratulations to all who took part, and its thanks to Andy McLachlan and Mike Croker for their valuable time and experience in support of Greenpower. The many volunteers, who have contributed their expertise to schools and colleges around the country, are enabling children and students to engage with a thrilling competition that brings them closer to the challenging and rewarding industry of engineering.
Read on for highlights of the dramatic day of racing
After the vital practice session on Sunday, the races began. This year’s finals featured the Corporate Challenge – an opportunity for universities and business to take part. Some great new teams got involved, including Lockheed Martin, Exelis, Prodrive, MIRA and the engineering department of Walkers Snack Food joining long time competitors Jaguar Land Rover and the Silesian University of Technology. It was the latter who prevailed, retaining their crown, closely followed by Jaguar in second and Walkers in third place.
The ninth, and final, round of the IET Formula 24+ Race was all set to be a showdown between joint-favourite cars, Dougal and Jet. They had been neck-and-neck all season. In well-established rain, the race got under way but it was a day of victims to the weather conditions – the first to spin off the circuit was Dougal. Jet built a small, but crucial, advantage.
The next victim was another highly experienced car and driver, Rotary Racer, which also span off but, furthermore, suffered three punctures. Sportingly, the older members of the team then withdrew from the race to save the car for the younger members due to race in the IET Formula 24 later in the day.
The girls of Sandbach High School desperately tried to reel Cullimore Racing’s Jet back in, tearing their way back through the pack to be on Jet’s tail for the last few laps. In the end, a flawless drive, and exceptional pit stop by Cullimore Racing meant that their early advantage was unassailable, with Jet picking up their third 10 points and the 2013 Championship. Coming in third, and also leapfrogging their way to the same place in the overall table were the By Pod team from Chipping Sodbury School, a terrific comeback from a slow start to the season and hopefully signs of great things to come from the Renishaw team that they will now be eligible to be a part of!
There was still an accolade for Sandbach: Trevor Baylis OBE, launched his Mary Anderson Award, to recognise Achievement in Engineering Through Greenpower. This award went to former Sandbach pupil Lauren Davis, who has just started at Loughborough University where she is studying for a degree in Product Design Engineering.
The 15th IET Formula 24 Final was under way at 1pm. It was a thrilling race, with Dougal taking seven seconds off the track lap record in only the second lap. It remained the leading car until an electronics problem stopped them, leading to over 30 minutes off the track. Taking advantage of this, both Purple Predator and the Black Bullet from the Weal School took over at the front. The race seemed to be theirs for the taking – until both fell victim, again, to the weather conditions. Taunton School’s Viper was also keen to capitalise on the absence of Dougal. This fine car has won several engineering awards and has been in contention at many heats but has yet to record a win. This race was not to be it: the weather saw to that.
With Dougal back on track and the determined girls from Sandbach sparing them nothing, lap times were being ripped to shreds – only to be beaten by the team that pipped them at the post last year: Rotary Racer.
The magnanimous tactical decision (made after succumbing to punctures in the IET Formula 24+ race) made by the older team members of Chipping Sodbury School paid off, rewarding them with Rotary Racer’s third consecutive win! Dougal finished just four laps behind, a remarkable achievement after significant time out. Next in, with a battle for the line for third place was Coyote, a team all the way from Thurso in the far north of Scotland, battling it out with fellow countrymen, Insane Bolt from Ullapool High School in fourth; and Viper in fifth, all on 44 laps, just five laps off the winner.
Greenpower National Final Awards:
Siemens Innovation Award was presented to Ares, Team USA for their use of electronics and telemetry.
The IMechE Eastern region award for top car from their region went to Inferno, Mark Rutherford School.
IMechE Best Engineered car was awarded to Bernard, Two Rivers School, which was judged as being beautifully engineered throughout.
IET Technology Award went to Viper, Taunton School for the use of cutting edge technology in the design and build of the car.
The Best Presented Team, for their unswerving support of each other, and the funky face paint logos was Hummingbird from Plymouth High School for Girls.
Greenest Car was RLR1, Richard Lander School.
Most Improved Car was Rock on Raptor (up 33 places) and Best Newcomer was Max from Babbington Community College.
For full details of the Greenpower National Finals and the complete winners list: http://www.greenpower.co.uk/events/events/national-finals-2013Exceptional racing in challenging weather conditions ensured a day of high drama and fantastic achievements