08 October 2012 22:52

The Summer of 2012

Category: Pat´s Corner

Well, the summer is finished and the FS season is over for another year, so it is time to review the highpoints of the year.

FSG was another huge success. In order to reduce the workload on the staff, the night enduro for electric cars was abandoned this year and the event was run in the daytime. To make time for this, it became necessary to increase the length of the course so the track density could be increased. This was done by breaking out of the paddock carpark where the event has been run in the past and extending the course out on to the Hockenheimring proper. History will show the move was entirely successful.

An added benefit of the extension was that the main grandstands could be used for viewers. Success all around.

So, what interested the Judges this year?
The biggest surprise was the appearance of the team from Beijing, China. I don’t apologise that I was among the group who had fairly low expectations, having previously seen some pretty poor efforts from Asia. But when the team and car were unpacked, I was pleased to be proven wrong!

Beijing Institute of Technology on track

The BIT car was a typical mid to high level FS car, a four cylinder Honda engine and 13” wheels. There were none of the ‘beginner’ mistakes we usually see on first and second year cars. When one considers the difficulty Chinese teams have in obtaining suitable power-plant, brake and tyres, this car from BIT was an exemplary effort!

I always look for technical trends and this year I noticed a disturbing number of cars with basic design errors. This included some very experienced teams, where some of the lessons and experiences of the past seem to have been forgotten. That was the reason why Steve Fox and I reprised our ‘George Santayana’ lecture this year. The theme of this lecture is ‘Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it’.

It is vital, if FS is to earn its stripes as an educational exercise, that the teams must have a dossier of information to pass on to future teams.
Basic errors that were seen to be on the increase this year were...

  1. Poor rear wheel toe control, both in compliance and in geometry, and
  2. Loads, particularly bell-crank forces, being reacted in the middle of unsupported tubes or in the middle of a flat unsupported panel on monocoque chassis.

Mentioning Steve Fox, I have to thank him for his help, support and efforts at FSG since 2007. Steve has stood down as Chief Design Judge. It is important that senior officials are rotated occasionally in order to maintain parity in the competition. Steve recognises this and so do I!

Next year, Dietmar Becker will join Rudi Dittrich and myself as Chief Design Judges. Dietmar is no stranger to the competition, having been a Design Judge at most FSG events since 2006. I have no doubt he will do a great job and will add new skills and outlook to the senior judging position and I am very pleased to have him on board.

Steve Fox ‘passes the hat’ to Dietmar Becker

I had a very interesting change of duties at FSG this year. We decided to have an actual ‘Pat’s Corner’ at the event, where anyone could come along and discuss design or technical issues face to face. This was instituted to address suggestions that teams would like some formalised access to the design judges.

The times allocated to ‘Pat’s Corner’ were 10.30am to noon and 1.30pm to 4.00pm on Saturday and Sunday. What happened was amazing. On both days I was locked up solid from before 10.30 until after 5.00pm without a break. I had to have someone else bring me lunch and eat while I spoke with team members and potential team members. I saw nothing of the cars on track apart from the last half of the final five. But that’s okay, clearly, I was needed elsewhere.

Pat’s Corner in action

What was amazing is the students mostly didn’t want to talk about technical issues. Instead, they mostly wanted to talk about philosophical stuff, politics related to teams and to ask for career advice! I never saw myself as a potential father confessor, but there I was!

I had not imagined that such ‘counselling’ would be appropriate at FSG, but I could see that students, who had given their all to Formula Student for the last several years and now the competition was here, it was all finished!  One team member was in tears as we spoke. I am honoured that I have such good communication with the students that they trust me to discuss such personal issues.

This has me reassessing where I best fit in. Sure, it is neat to discuss technical issues, to debate design issues and to suggest solutions, but all of this means nothing if the philosophical health of the students is not looked after. This was brought into sharp focus when one team told me a past member, who I knew well, had taken his own life in a depressed state.

So, it may be that I change my involvement with FSG. That remains to be seen and I need to discuss it with the Organising Committee. I think ‘Pat’s Corner’ both virtual and physical, is a necessary part of FSG!

On a brighter note, a highlight of the summer was the release of the FS/FSAE book ‘Learn to Compete’. This is an instruction primer for teams inexperienced in Formula Student, to help them avoid making the errors we see repeatedly with new teams. 255 pages of good stuff!

The book has been written to give advice on all aspects of design, manufacturing and competing with a car in the FS/FSAE competitions. The Authors include most well known judges and other officials, including FSG Judges David Gould, Steve Fox and yours truly. Other authors include Bill Mitchell, Michael Royce, Doug Millikan, Steve Lyman, Ed Kasprzak and Suzanne Royce,
Topics include the Rules, Design, Safety, competing. Event documentation, Testing, Vehicle dynamics, Tyre selection...all the stuff a new, or not so new, team need to know.

This book should be in the library of every team and should be required reading for all new team members! www.racetechmag.com will find it...Just tell them Pat sent you and you might also get a free magazine!

Design Error of the Month

This time, the DEM is for something completely different.

This year the lead medal of disgrace goes to the organisers of the Supra event in Delhi, India. These people decided to eject our friend and mentor Claude Rouelle from the competition!  Claude was in Delhi to present one of his OptimumG seminars. He arrived early to combat jetlag and went out to the event to advise and help out if asked. Instead, they threw him out!

That’s all for this time