In late June of 2016, the senior team of Monash Motorsport packed their bags and took off for Europe, in our most ambitious international campaign yet.
With two months, 5 countries and 3 international competitions on the horizon, the team was feeling fresh and excited upon arrival in Stuttgart, which would be our home base for the entirety of the campaign. We were graciously hosted by Rennteam Stuttgart who are arguably one of best teams in the world. For the the first two weeks of July, the team eagerly reassembled and tested M15-R to make up for lost time after it spent almost two months crossing the seas.
Then, on July 12, the team packed everything up once again and began the long journey to Silverstone, the home of British Formula 1 and for us, Formula Student UK. The competition began well, with the team showing their proficiency in the static events, reaching the finals in both the Cost and Sustainability and Engineering Design events. We placed 6th in Design Event, 2nd in Cost and Sustainability and 10th in Business Presentation.
A decent showing in Skidpad and Autocross netted us 9th place and 21st place respectively. A sunny Sunday then rolled around with a nervous but confident team heading into the main event of the competition: Endurance. Sadly, and to the great disappointment of every team member across the globe, past and present, the car stopped on track early in the event due to a drive shaft failure. For us, the competition was over and we headed back to Stuttgart the next morning, relishing the chance of another week of maintenance and testing before our next competition.
Next came a couple of amazing sessions at the proving grounds of Opel and the incredible Bosch Boxberg. Although neither were official events, they both presented fantastic opportunities for Endurance and Autocross testing alongside some of the best teams in Europe. We are extremely grateful to Opel and our valuable partner Bosch for inviting us to these brilliant events.
To our dismay, the car came to a stop on track at Bosch once again with our data showing engine failure. After returning to the workshop, we removed the engine for inspection and found that it had been irreparably damaged due to oil and coolant starvation, a huge hit to our chances of resurrecting the campaign. It would need to be replaced with the back-up engine overnight, which would now have to survive two more competitions.
As the sun rose the next day, the car was finally ready, and we set our sights on the Red Bull Ring where Formula Student Austria was about to begin. Once again we impressed with our ability in the static events, finishing 6th in Design Event, 4th in Cost and an amazing 1st place in Business Presentation, our first trophy for 2016. Moving on to the dynamic events, the car performed well in Autocross placing us in the top third of competitors for the event. However, the car unfortunately came to a halt on track in Endurance for the second time during the campaign, placing us 14th overall. Morale amongst the team took another major hit.
Although our performance was disappointing, it was certainly not indicative of the hard work and effort put into the car from every member of the team. We feel extremely privileged and proud to have had the opportunity to race amongst such admirable, high class teams during the competition.
Finally, after failures at two successive European competitions, we set our sights on the main event of the campaign, Formula Student Germany. Comprising of over 100 teams from around the world, it is arguably the most intensely difficult and ruthlessly competitive event on the Formula Student calendar.
Despite our dampened spirits following our performance in Austria, the team banded together once more to make the most of our final competition. Day two really put us through our paces as the high standard of the German static events showed. We were stoked to achieve an impressive 9th place in Business Presentation, with mid-twenties finishes in Design and Cost events. The next day we were feeling much more positive after getting around the Skidpad track with a great time and 15th place. Then once again, the problems which had plagued us previously resurfaced. An electrical issue meant we crossed the finish line in both Acceleration and Autocross in two disappointing 33rd places.
The next morning, having rectified the previous day’s fault, we took to the Endurance track, our final chance to show what we could do. Nerves were higher than ever and the team wanted nothing more than to see M15-R cross the finish line. Respite was felt throughout the crowd as we managed to complete the event, with emotions running high in both Germany and Melbourne. Overall, we finished the competition in 21st place out of over 73 combustion vehicles, a satisfactory result but still below our initial expectation.
Overall, our Europe campaign proved to be one of grit, overcoming seemingly infinite challenges over many long days and late nights. It is a hard reality for us as a team to accept that the car we have spent the better part of a year and a half building was not up to the inspiring standard of previous cars that have competed in Europe. However, we believe what we take away from this experience is most important. Each and every member of the team gained invaluable new knowledge and inspiration from the amazing cars, events and people met along the way. Although we are disappointed with our overall European results, we are extremely proud of our effort and perseverance, and are fiercely motivated for the next few months, with FSAE-A on the horizon.
We have seen what the best teams in the world can do. We have learned so much of what it takes to build best cars in the world. We are ready for what comes next!
– Will Jenkin (Powertrain)