‘Unknown’ speed sport debuting at CRC Speedshow

‘Unknown’ speed sport debuting at CRC Speedshow

A virtually unknown motorsport in New Zealand will be showcased for the first time at CRC Speedshow in Auckland this month.

An internationally competed for series, known as Formula SAE, will see both engineering students from Waikato and Auckland Universities work hard to outwit each other, and battle it out on the race track during the two-day event at the ASB Showgrounds, 16-17 July.
Formula SAE is an international student engineering design competition organised by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International).  It’s performed on tight tracks demanding fast-accelerating, agile cars more suited to autocross courses rather than open circuit racing.  

The group holds competitive meets throughout the world – currently Waikato University’s team, which has only been participating for 10 years, is ranked 85th out of 528 teams representing competing university and technology institutes from around the world.   

The Waikato team, WESMO (Waikato Engineering Students Motorsport Organisation), has only nine members, who are all in their final year of an engineering honours degree.  Many overseas teams have 30 to 70 people, says Wesmo’s sponsorship coordinator and suspension engineer, Nathan Senior.

“Generally, New Zealanders haven’t encountered Formula SAE because it’s held outside of the country and is limited to university students who are studying engineering,” he says.  

There are only three Kiwi teams involved; Waikato’s WESMO and one each from Auckland University and The University of Canterbury.

“Currently Formula SAE is a relatively unknown sport here.  It’s only people who become directly involved who truly know about it.  Kiwi teams are always complimented on the quality of our cars, and we’re competitive in the Australasian region which has about 30 cars,” he says.

Senior describes this scene as basically students playing F1, and there’s always a professional, competitive, yet good humoured atmosphere at get-togethers.  Students work next to each other and learn about their rivals’ designs – it’s a great learning environment.

“It would be awesome to see more of the New Zealand universities and polytechs get involved in Formula SAE to increase the Kiwi presence.  It would be great to send Kiwi teams to other competitions in Europe and the USA.

“At CRC Speedshow we taking part in the Ultimate Speed Machine Challenge and running our 2015 model against the Auckland team, and other types of vehicles in the arena.  We’ll also have a stand in pit lane and people are welcome to come by and talk with us,” says Senior.

His team is constantly looking for companies to help represent them – both at home and overseas.

“We’re really looking forward to attending CRC Speedshow and being able to display our 2015 car.  It’s going to be interesting to see how both of the SAE cars perform - not only against each other - but also against the different types of speed machines.”

The concept behind Formula SAE is that a fictional manufacturing company has contracted a student design team to develop a small Formula-style race car.  The prototype car is to be evaluated for its potential as a production item.

The target marketing group for the race car is the non-professional autocross racer.  Each student team designs, builds and tests a prototype based on a series of rules, the purpose being to ensure on-track safety (the cars are driven by the students themselves) and trigger problem solving.

The prototype car is judged in a number of different events, both static and dynamic.

Static events assess the overall design, manufacturing quality and business logic, where teams are able to share their design ideas and display excellence in the aspects such as marketing and finance.

Dynamic events test a vehicle’s track performance, acceleration, skid-pad and autocross track handling, and endurance.

The competition regulations mean that teams have to work to strict restrictions.  These include a 20mm air restrictor on the intake,  E85 or 98RON fuel only, 1525mm minimum wheel base, combustion engine limited to 610cc maximum engine displacement, 232kg weight, and the ability to reach - 100km/h in four seconds.

Senior says the Waikato’s WESMO aims to produce a reliable and strongly competitive race car, while at the same time offering students an experience to develop valuable engineering skills that will help with their future careers.