Formula Student

High Five: University of Sheffield's SFR Interview

Formula Student Team

Following their highest ever result at Formula Student 2018 and the second highest scoring UK team, we hear from the University of Sheffield as they prepare for the next year of the competition and what they have in store.

Please introduce your university and team!

2019 will mark SFR’s 10th year in the competition. Every year, our team consists of roughly 40-50 undergraduate engineering students ranging from their 1st to final year, and are currently in the process of recruiting our next cohort of first year students. The team is structured into 5 sub-teams: Chassis and Vehicle Dynamics, Aerodynamics, Powertrain, Ergonomics and Electronics.

How did you get on at the competition this year?

FSUK 2018 was an incredible year for us. Coming 5th overall and being 2nd best UK team surpassed all expectations and has been a huge boost to our motivation. It was also the first year in which we competitively completed the endurance event, therefore the feeling of joy and relief as we crossed the finish line is my personal favourite memory from this year at Silverstone.

Our design philosophy so far has been inspired by the words of Colin Chapman, “Simplify, then add lightness”. Therefore, winning an award for most efficient IC engine car meant a lot to us due to its direct correlation to vehicle weight. This year our car weighed just 158kg, the second lightest in the competition.

What are your objectives for the 2019 competition?

Building on our momentum through 2019, we plan to defend our spot as a top 5 UK team and score a minimum of 700 points. To do this, we are currently developing our first aero package, which should improve the cars underlying pace ensuring we are competitive.

How does your team organise your workload?

Each team member is assigned a design sub-team. From there, the sub-team leaders delegate car components to each of their team members. We have informal, whole team design sessions once or twice a week to create an environment where everyone can work on their designs while being able to ask anyone in the room for advice and brainstorm ideas. Frequent small deadlines are put in place and checked up on by team leaders to ensure we are progressing at a steady pace.

What is new and exciting for your team this year?

The big change for us is developing an aerodynamic package. We have done some work on it in the past but always as an afterthought. This year we have started from the beginning with downforce in mind. Now we are in the CFD stage running a number of simulations a week and learning a lot about what does and doesn’t work.

In terms of sponsors, we are excited to have Schaeffler join us as our bearing supplier. They are also providing us with support from a technical perspective on how to choose the appropriate bearings for particular applications. We are also pleased that Meggitt and Metlase are continuing their vital support of the team through 2019 and we would like to thank them for all their help so far. We are also chasing companies to help us with manufacture of moulds and composite services, watch this space as it were.

The team has received a huge amount of interest from some of the brightest first year engineering students to join the university and they are currently going through our challenging vetting process to see who has the passion and motivation to join SFR. We are extremely excited to see what they can do and what a difference a fresh set of minds will have on the design of our car.

What have been your biggest challenges so far how have you overcome them?

In previous years, reliability has always been our Achilles heel. Over the years we have learnt so much on how to identify potential weaknesses of the car during testing and fix and manage these issues prior to competition. We also have a methodical approach to testing, checking key areas before each run to ensure the car is, to the best of our knowledge. Usually these have been developed over time thanks to previous mishaps during testing or other competitions. This building of experience has finally enabled us to complete the endurance event.

What made you join Formula Student?

As a motorsport fan, Formula Student was a great opportunity to combine a hobby with the knowledge gained through my mechanical engineering degree. It’s been 4 years now since joining the team and I’m probably more excited than ever to see this next car come to life and compete at Silverstone in July.

What’s your proudest moment at Formula Student?

Hearing our overall result of 5th place last July gave us a huge sense of pride. After so much heart ache in the past, we were all really proud of each other for achieving a result we once thought was out of reach.

What advice would you give for fellow teams?

Firstly, what I think works really well for us is being able to pass our knowledge down the team year after year. By having team members joining in their first year of their degree and staying until they graduate, we can learn from the most experienced team members before they leave, ensuring we are always moving the team forward and every car is an improvement on the last.

Secondly, if you are stricken with consecutive years of unreliability, try not to reinvent the wheel. Don’t be afraid to iterate and optimise your design instead of starting with a clean sheet of paper. Remember, to finish first, first you must finish.

How can we keep up to date with you?

We have recently updated our website so please take a look at http://www.sheffieldformularacing.co.uk

You can also follow Sheffield Formula Racing on Facebook, Twitter @TeamSFR and Instagram @sheff_racing.

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