When it was announced that Queen Mary were winners of the Best Newcomer Award at Formula Student, the team were understandably elated. After all the hard work, overcoming delays, financial problems and time pressures, they had managed to get their first Class 1 car to Formula Student in 13 years. To come home with some silverware was the icing on the cake and the video of the team up on the podium shows just how happy they were.
Starting from scratch
To say that the team had a rough year only explains half of the story. As part of ongoing works to the University campus, the School of Engineering and Materials Sciences has undergone a lot of construction over the last 12 months. Without a permanent work area, the team were forced to relocate their car, equipment and tools to different areas of the campus several times, leading to disruption in the build schedule.
“It was really tough to work through” said Awais Yousaf, the team’s Head of Engineering. “We’d get everything boxed up and find that we had lost parts or tools when we got unpacked.” Combine this with the fact that QMFS have never had a completed car before and not even a working engine before last November, the team have amassed plenty of parts for past designs but never enough for a full set for their car (a set of three brake pads, anyone?).
As for the rest of the car, the team often had to wait their turn to get parts manufactured in their campus’ engineering labs, jostling for time amongst post-graduate projects and classroom work. But overcoming the odds has won them fans in the Faculty staff. We ran into Adam Sutcliffe, one of the Design Lecturers, while on the tour of the campus and he was quick to say how impressed he was with the team.
Without a full inventory or secure funds, it was difficult to say what they might need in the future, but despite these challenges the team managed to scrounge the parts they needed, even managing to get their old Triumph engine working for the first time. This was a real high point to the season and after getting past this milestone, the rest suddenly seemed attainable. Applying some late nights in the workshop that culminated in an all-night session during the week of Silverstone, their car was finally ready to go.
The team were all agreed that attending Learn to Win was a big help in getting the car built on time. “Before we got to Learn to Win 2017, we made sure we had a gameplan”, explained Aqil Hussain, former Project Manager for the team. “Eathan (Plaschka) and I went to the Cost and Business judges, because those were the areas that we were strongest in and had all the questions. As the head of Marketing, Nina naturally went to the press briefing and all the Operations team met with the judges to get the technical answers they needed.”
For Queen Mary, Learn to Win was a natural progression after having entered as a Class 2 team in 2016 and having the chance to check out what the Class 1 teams were doing and learning from them on the track at Silverstone. The next step was then deciding to try to make a Class 1 entry and the team pulled out all the stops to make it happen.
Gowshikan Santhikumaran, former Head of Chassis, was able to organise a team outing to UCL to see what a real car looked like. “It was really inspiring to check out their car and ask them how they address certain problems – after that we went from first gear straight to 6th!”
The team also reached out to other teams for advice during the year, including FSUK winners Cardiff Racing and established teams Imperial Racing Green and KU e-Racing. Being able to ask questions and get some moral support from other teams was invaluable, especially for a junior team. The same was true in the garages at Silverstone; QMFS arrived with the car in pieces and weren’t sure how long it was going to take to get it assembled. Fellow garage-mates Team Sleipnir from the University of Reykjavik were happy to lend tools so they could rebuild the car. “It took nearly two days to get it built” laughed Gowshikan “but we just needed to get more practice of taking it apart and putting it back together when transporting it.”
Onwards and upwards
Just talking to the team you can tell that the competition means a lot to them; so much so that some members didn’t make it to their graduation day and stayed at Silverstone to work on their car. The success of 2017 means that they are in a much better position to produce a working car for next year.
“We managed to pass four sections, but we weren’t able to get the engine to turn over after the Tilt Table” explained Awais. “We did eventually manage to get it running at Silverstone, just to say that we did, but it was a bit too late. We’d left the engine too cold for too long; we won’t make the same mistake next year.” The team are much more confident at what to expect at scrutineering next year.
Money was definitely an issue last year but having secured some sponsors late in the 2017 campaign and with a plan to get more, the future is definitely looking brighter. “First on the shopping list is a better set of wheels and tyres and we’re also definitely going to be applying again for the IMechE Financial Awards to get all the nice-to-have parts” said Aqil. Weight is also a crucial issue for the team: an all steel construction means that their 2017 car weighed almost 300 kilos, so this is a clear area for improvement for 2018.
Even though the 2017 team leader has stepped down after graduating, it’s clear to see that their success in 2017 has breathed new life into the team. After opening this year’s Learn to Win and reminding them of how far they have come, it’s now down to the new and returning team members to use this momentum and get their car past scrutineering into the dynamic events, again breaking new ground for the team. We wish them all the best at FS2018!
Catch up with Queen Mary on their team website and via their Twitter and Facebook social media channels.