An excited group of Edith Cowan University engineering students is on its way to the world centre of motor racing for another international challenge.
ECU Motorsport and Melbourne’s Monash are Australia’s only entrants in the UK Formula Student competition, held at the hallowed Silverstone F1 circuit July 14-17.
Some 3000 of the world’s best young engineers are racing specialist high tech cars designed and constructed at their far flung unis.
WA’s entry is named after ECU Engineering’s visionary head of school, Professor Daryoush Habibi, who has been instrumental in establishing and nurturing Australia’s only university degree course on motorsport engineering.
The Habibi is powered by the ECU-R custom 4-cyl motorcycle donk, utilising Honda CBR engine architecture. The chassis is an aluminium and carbon fibre monocoque with the cut and fold technique pioneered by ECU that drastically reduces construction time – and copied since by various teams around the world.
In F Student the emphasis is on chassis performance, particularly direction change, braking and cornering. The Habibi generates close to 2G in cornering force in dry conditions – similar to a V8 Supercar and greater than the high powered Ferrari or Koenigsegg.
Last December it led the Australia-wide Formula SAE in Melbourne going into the final event endurance leg, only to see a dreaded black flag from a minor oil leak and a crushing DNF.
“So the team is definitely hungrier than ever before to show how amazing this car actually is,” Eric Curwood, ECU Racing’s technical director, said.
The WA team first went to the British circuit in 2014, finishing12th from more than100 entries. Competition is even stiffer this year with 123 teams in their Class 1 category, for combustion powered vehicles, and the aim is a Top 10.
Key players with 2014 experience are back this year, including team principal Nathan Van Vugt and lead driver Daniel Moreria, the 26-year-old from Kinross who earned himself all-time bragging rights after being judged the best pilot at the famous international event.
The 2016 driving team is Van Vugt and Mitch Gray from Perth, Albany’s Rhys Lennegan, Kiwi Liam Lewis and Zimbabwean Moreria.
“Developing and building the car are two incredibly different domains,” Curwood said. “The cost of traveling, maintaining and running the vehicle adds up quite quickly.
“The team completes a large number of testing days throughout the year to improve our understanding of the current car and test plans for future vehicles, so our consumables cost is a significant chunk as well.”
There’s not much change out of $70,000 for Habibi’s build, offset by the incalculable learning experience for the students.
“While ECU picked up most team costs, Guz Engineering did an incredible amount of machining for us, as did Robert Cameron & Co and PolyPlastics. Ayres Composites provided the chassis work and the lightweight aluminium honeycomb,” Curwood said.
“The WA Sporting Car Club allowed our team the chance to help out at events, including the Supercars, and gave us an invaluable testing area. Emirates provided the air freight.”
The team will spend time at this weekend’s British F1 Grand Prix – at Silverstone – and tour the headquarters of the Red Bull F1 Team and Prodrive, the rally and GT powerhouse.
The annual Formula Student, run by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, challenges universities everywhere to design, build and race a small-scale single-seater within12 months.
The cars are judged by industry specialists on speed, acceleration and endurance, while teams are tested on their design, costing and business presentation skills. Points are allocated for each discipline, to a maximum of 1000.
Ross Brawn, former team principal of Mercedes F1, is patron of the comp which debuted in 1998 and has been run at Silverstone since 2007.
In 1950 the track hosted the first ever round of the modern era Driver’s World Championship. The Mercedes F1 factory at Brackley is nearby.
The mission of Europe’s major educational motorsport competition is “to excite and encourage young people” to take up a career in the industry.
It provides a platform for students to demonstrate and improve their capabilities to deliver a complex and integrated product in the demanding environment of a motorsport competition.
Check out formulastudent.com
Main Photo:ECU’s iconic spires frame the Habibi. Picture: Ben Chalk.