Volkswagen Magazine

Sport

Racing toward a career.

The Formula Student Germany welcomes 115 teams and their self-designed racing cars from around the world. Contenders include the defending champions from the Delft University of Technology and the newcomers from the University of Bremen. And the winner is...

Text Sabrina Künz
Photos Steffen Jahn

Hockenheimring, 2 August, 6.53pm. Autocross.

The members of the TU Delft team sit in the grandstands, visibly tense. Some of them look nervously at their watches, others keep their eyes on the cars waiting on the racing track. Time is running out. The track will close at precisely 7pm, regardless of who has completed their second round. Just two more cars to start. Now just one. And finally their car, DUT14, is in position and speeds off. The team leaps up and cheers at every chicane. Please, no mistakes! The driver gives everything he’s got, cuts the curves close, accelerates on the straights and zooms over the finish line. A few anxious seconds, and then unbridled joy: 76.01 seconds. The best time. The team members hug each other in celebration. Jet Tuitert is the only one holding a walkie-talkie to her ear. Whilst her colleagues celebrate, she alone realises what has just happened. Literally in the last few seconds, the team’s toughest competitor, the ETH Zurich, has beaten them.

A moment of joy for the Delft team

Autocross is one of the eight disciplines that are part of the Formula Student Germany. The FSG consists of two parallel contests: the Formula Student Combustion for cars with combustion engines, and the Formula Student Electric (FSE) for those with electric motors. For both of these contests, students build a one-seat Formula racing car. In just one year – often in addition to their studies – the teams put their hearts and souls into their dream. Tim de Morée, manager of the Delft team, explains what that means for the top contenders. “Full-time members work as many as 100 hours a week, and part-time members at least 20. And they too then work 40 to 60 hours a week in the critical stage leading up to the contest.” Speed alone is not what wins the Formula Student but rather the best overall package of design, performance, financial planning and sales skills. In addition to dynamic disciplines such as the acceleration, autocross, endurance and fuel efficiency tests, the teams also have to present business plans and cost analyses.

» This has been the craziest week of my life ­«

Frank Deblon, Frank Deblon, founder of the “Bremergy Racing” team (University of Bremen) Bremen)
Frank Deblon, founder and manager of the “Bremergy Racing” team.

The racing weekend is well known for its fair play and casual atmosphere. Little groups of family members, friends and competitors are always standing around and talking. Carts loaded with provisions from home and Tupperware containers full of raw vegetables from their mums keep the young engineers going as they concentrate on the final tuning details and on dealing with any last-minute problems. As the tests go on, track announcers enthusiastically report on the teams and their successes. The fans cheer all the cars equally, with thunderous applause for every good lap. Everyone there is well aware of how much hard work has gone into these self-constructed racing cars.

The disciplines.

Engineering Design Presentation of technical solutions and design in the form of a design report.
Cost Analysis Presentation of all costs accrued in the form of a cost report.
Business Presentation Team members try to convince the jury of the merits of their business idea.
Skid Pad Driving a figure eight. The fastest time wins.
Acceleration Speeding up from a standstill. The fastest time wins.
Autocross A handling course over one kilometre. The fastest time wins.
Endurance A handling course over 22 kilometres against the clock, with a new driver at the halfway mark. The fastest time wins.
Fuel Efficiency/Fuel Economy Measurement of fuel consumption during the endurance test.

The Delft University team is one of the best equipped and enters the contest as the favourite. It has taken overall victory for the last three years now. A glance at the team’s working area in the pit lane reveals how far advanced its project is. Well styled and with highly professional equipment, it could almost be the showroom of a major car maker. Two of the walls have a photo display of the team’s history and logos of its numerous sponsors. The crown jewel sparkles at the centre: the car known as “DUT14” with the starting number E1. When talking with team manager and driver Tim de Morée you might start imagining you’re at a standard racing circuit. But then a teammate hands him a rice cracker spread with chocolate during the interview, and you then realise where you are. “Lunch,” says de Morée and grins. His dual role on the team means he is constantly in the spotlight. How does he deal with the situation? “It’s tougher to maintain the number one position than to be a challenger,” he observes. But the team has appeared in force to defend its title. It has 86 members, including ten who interrupted their studies for a year in order to work full-time on the project.

The competitors from Delft and Bremen in full concentration on the way to the racing track.

» Full-time team members work an average of 100 hours a week on the car. «

Tim de Morée, manager and driver for the Delft Formula Student team

Quick snack between races: Driver Tim de Morée takes a lunch break.
Team member Jet Tuitert checks the rear spoiler of the DUT14 before the autocross.
The Delft team’s tyres prove unbeatable in the “Skid Pad” discipline.

DUT14

DUT Racing Team
Delft University of Technology

Founded in 2000 for the combustion class, the team has entered the electric class since the start of the 2011 FSE.

Frame construction:
Monocoque composite frame with integrated aluminium front hoop
Material:
Aluminium honeycomb sandwich panels
Length / width / height (mm):
2,856 / 1,383 / 1,054
Weight with driver (68 kg):
110 / 113 kg (front axle / rear axle)
Number / position of motors:
4 / wheel hub motors
Max. motor power / rpm:
30 kW / 20,000
Motor controller:
4x AMK KW26-S5
Battery / capacity:
LiCoO2 – graphite / 6.3 kWh
Drive type:
One-stage planetary gear system in wheel

 

More information at:

» This is my first year on the team. It’s a real trip to be here. «

Jet Tuitert, member of the Delft Formula Student team

Just a few metres away, things look a little different. Here is the workplace of the team from the University of Bremen. Its garage has a more improvised feel – like the workshop of a dedicated amateur mechanic. This is the first time that “Bremergy Racing” has entered the contest at the Hockenheimring. For them it’s not a matter of winning, but rather of exchanging ideas with other teams and increasing their knowledge. As team founder and manager Frank Deblon says, “Some teams come with complete mobile workshops. We haven’t reached that level yet. But we’ve gained a lot of inspiration, which will help us a lot. That’s the best thing about the Formula Student and the reason why we’ve entered it. Everyone is happy to share their knowledge and experience.”
For eight years now, Volkswagen has been advising participants in the Formula Student. In addition to the teams from the TU Delft and the University of Bremen, this year the company is also sponsoring the RWTH Aachen University, the University of Kassel, Leibniz Universität Hannover, the Braunschweig Technische Universität and Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences in Wolfsburg. In so doing, Volkswagen is helping students from different disciplines gain some experience in making cars. The teams benefit not only financially, but also and especially from the experience and advice of experts. This should not be underestimated, as Deblon emphasises. “We have a lot of engineering expertise at the university, but no applied automotive technicians. Volkswagen gives us an advisor whom we talk to regularly and meet with once a month. He gives us tips and puts us in contact with specialists. With that type of engineering expertise, you can overcome a lot of obstacles.”

Last check for the “Bremergy Racing” team. Then every second counts.
Loving attention to detail: A member of the Bremen team carved the steering wheel by hand.

» Support from Volkswagen gave us the crucial boost that we needed. «

Frank Deblon, founder of the “Bremergy Racing” team

A sense of humour is needed too. Both top results and a light-hearted atmosphere are important.
A quick look at the display: How did we do? Is there enough time for a second round?

BreMo14

“Bremergy Racing” team
University of Bremen

Founded August 2011, the team made its debut at the 2013 Formula Student in Italy.

Frame construction: 

Tubular steel space frame

Material: 
E355 steel pipes of different wall thicknesses

Length / width / height (mm): 
3,095 / 1,440 / 1,266
Weight with driver (68 kg):
164 / 183 kg (front axle / rear axle)
Number / position of motors:
2 / rear: 1 x left, 1 x right
Max. motor power / rpm:
36 kW / 4,400
Motor controller:
Kelly Type KDH12401E with recovery
Battery / capacity:
LiFePO4 / 6.6 kWh
Drive type: 
Planetary gear integrated into uprights

 

More information at:

» If you really want a fast car, you should drive an electric one. «

Tim de Morée, manager and driver for the Delft Formula Student team

The students also have the chance to showcase themselves and their talent early on. Internships and joint research projects for their studies can open the door to good career opportunities at the company. At the beginning of the year, Deblon did a three-month internship in Wolfsburg. “Only then did I realise what we get from this experience,” he says. “Working like engineers, managing your time and costs – some things that the other interns had never heard of were obvious to me. Working on this team is like a two-year internship, but without anyone looking over your shoulder. You’ve got to play that role yourself.”

The Delft team also finds the liaison with Volkswagen very valuable. As de Morée explains, “We had the chance to travel to Wolfsburg and Hanover and tour the sites. Now everyone on the team wants to work at Volkswagen.”

 

 

But the students are not the only ones who benefit from the project. Volkswagen personnel marketing specialist Mirco Stoffels, whose responsibilities include the Formula Student, remarks that “it is great to see so much committed talent at work. And we have the chance to see potential future employees in action.” During the contest Stoffels is always available for the teams and helps out with problems both large and small. He has become a real racing pro. “It’s a lot of fun to be right in the middle of things and to see how motivated the teams are and how they give everything to achieve good results.”

 

Burdened by its past success, the team from Delft does not achieve its hoped-for outcome this year. It leaves its competitors in the dust on the skid pad, but has to cede first place to Zurich in the autocross. In the endurance test, which is the most important racing discipline, it lands in third place and ends up going home with bronze behind Zurich and Stuttgart. Although the team doesn’t take the overall victory, its mood isn’t dampened for long. And its car also wins the “Audi ultra-award” for the best lightweight construction design.

The team from Bremen will also be focusing on lightweight construction in 2015. Its aim is to enter next year’s race 50 kilograms lighter. So, after a short break to catch their breath, both teams will be heading back to their respective garages. After all, finishing one race just means that the next one is coming up.