FSAE Michigan takes place at the famous Michigan International Speedway in May. Close to a 100 teams, most of which are from the US, participate in this competition every year. Since its the oldest of all Formula Student / SAE challenges, over the years, FSAE Michigan has commanded considerable respect from all teams. Consequentially, the competition here is cut-throat and there is barely room for any mistakes.
We commenced work on our first car with the hope of participating at FSAE Michigan 2011. Technically and financially, it was an unprecedented challenge. While we had about four years of experience in building cars (working on the Baja series), we had never actually built a Formula race car. To raise money for a project of this magnitude with just CAD models as proof of what we were capable of, was a daunting task. This initial stage was a trying one requiring the team to carve out it's path. Despite those gruelling times, we treaded ahead steadily and were able to complete our first Formula race car right on time. In honour of our then Title Sponsor, we christened the car as C&C Alpha NR-XI.
FSAE Michigan 2011 saw over a 100 teams participate that year. We were overjoyed to qualify for the event - the only Indian team that year - and excited about participating in the competition. However, disaster struck us when our car couldn't make it to the competition. A logistics error prevented the car's onward journey at the UK, while it was en-route to USA. We managed the 60th spot in the Cost Report and 79th in the Business Presentation event, a notable achievement for a debutant team.On the brighter side, the experience we gained was invaluable.
Formula Student Hungary started in 2009 and is a favourite amongst the European teams. While it attracts teams from around the world, the participation is dominated by the highly competent German teams. Competition takes place at the City of Gyor about two hours from Budapest, Hungary. Gyor is a key-centre for the automobile sector in Central and Eastern Europe, thus, ensuring that the competition is well backed and supported by the industries.
In 2011, our logistics troubles continued well after FSAE Michigan, as a result of which the car was brought back in September, a good four months late. This cut short our preparation time for the next season. After much deliberation, we decided to target FS Hungary '12 as it gave us sufficient time to test, analyse and re-engineer our car. All the improvements paved way to the transformation of the C&C Alpha NR-XI to the DH NR-XII.
In August 2012, NITK Racing participated at Formula Student Hungary (FSH). In its third year now, FSH saw a total of 41 teams, from twelve nations, competing for the top honours. Spread over four days, August 17 - 20, the event managed to attract teams, students, audience and the media in an unprecedented manner. With Audi Hungaria as FSH's main sponsor, there was little doubt that the event would be anything short of perfect. Understandably, the competition was intense and the atmosphere fired up. Some teams had close to eight years of experience to their credit, while others had their budgets running into crores of rupees. European teams have a technological and financial edge when compared to their counterparts from around the world. It was understood that an uphill task lay ahead of us. We realized early that we had come to a competition where the one thing that we could take back, unbeaten, would be the experience of competing with the best teams. The teams, with their diverse backgrounds, varied experiences and disparate credibilities, found the event as an ideal window to interact amongst themselves. It was very encouraging and comforting to be noticed, appreciated and helped by other teams. A shout out for KEFO Motorsport, the team from Kecskemet, Hungary for helping NITK Racing.
Clearing the technical inspection was our objective that year - something which we achieved. Teams generally take 2 - 4 years to clear this stage for the first time, but completing it in our first attempt is a performance we are proud of. Besides the technical inspection, we cleared tilt and noise tests as well.
SUPRA SAEINDIAN '14 took place at Madras Motor Race Track, Chennai. A total of 110 teams, all from India, qualified for the event. The event is organised to serve the objective of bringing out student talent to serve the nation for the years to come, in fulfilment of the Automotive Mission Plan (AMP 2016), a dream to make India an International Automotive Hub.
Following our success in FS Hungary, we embarked upon building a new car for our third season. Taking account of all factors including required time to build a new car, time required to sponsor the required components and various other daunting tasks, we decided to participate in SUPRA '14. With our aim in mind to bag a top 10 spot on international level and put our college on the world map and showcase Indian engineering excellence, we introduced myriad of innovations in the new car, ranging from a Carbon Fibre Intake to a Rapid Prototype Exhaust. We also procured brand new body shells for the new car and chose to install a Hand Clutch for better control. With everything planned, prepped and tested thoroughly, we were prepared to participate.
We were thrilled to qualify for the event and were ready to showcase our new innovations but disaster struck us once again. Due to slight oversight on our part, we failed to clear the technical inspection, thus we were not able to participate in any of the Dynamic events. It proved to be strong morale damper for the team, but we decided to put our best foot forward despite the troubles and aimed to perform at our best in the Static events. Our determination and conviction proved fruitful. The design of the new car was well received by the judges and helped us bag the SUPRA Design Innovation Prize. Though we were not able to participate in the Dynamic events, we still diligently put our efforts around the clock into fixing minor issues of the car so as to do well in the Static events.
Though all the team members were left with a yearning to have been able to showcase the car in the Dynamic Events, the event gave us a lot of useful insight. It gave us an outlook on how we compared with other Indian colleges and helped to prepare ourselves better before going for an international event. With teams from different corners of India came a plethora of design innovations. We gained valuable experience in regards to the design process. On the whole, the event proved useful to us in various ways.
Formula Student China was first held in year 2010, organised by SAE China. Formula Student China '14 was held in the month of October at Xiangyang in Hubei Province, about a 1000km from Peking and Shanghai, on a race track built for Formula Student. The event saw a turnout of over 82 teams from all over the world.
Though SUPRA '14 event turned out to a valuable experience, the failure to clear technical inspection gnawed at our conscience. With our failures in mind, we found a lot of pressure on our shoulders which proved to the useful experience in helping us deal with failure and overcoming it. With the mistakes we committed at SUPRA '14 in mind, we made it our first priority to rectify those mistakes and also use the valuable insights we gained at the event. We decided to participate at FS China '14, our first international event in two years. With the event nigh, we focused all our efforts on testing the car thoroughly and rigorously. With our minds and hearts set, we were ready to go.
We were the only Indian team to have participated and qualified for FS China '14. With the previous failures in mind, Logistics were planned thoroughly and arranged in advance. The car was packed and shipped well in advance so as to avoid any logistic troubles this season. Yet despite our best efforts, problems with logistics plagued us again, with the car being held at Chinese Customs. We were unable to release the car and had to participate in the events sans car. The morale of the team took a great hit, yet we still trudged on and decided to give our best shot, in the Static events. Again, our design, rational and philosophy were well received by the judges and they were impressed. Every second while we were in China, we wished fervently that we had our car to show our efforts.
With our designs being received well, we received a morale boost. A big shout out to HIT Racing Team from the Harbin Institute of Technology for all their help and support throughout the duration of FS China. The event proved to be valuable experience, we gained exposure to the engineering excellence in China and all over the world. We gained insights on new fabrication processes and designs, which we will try to implement in our future cars. With our designs impressing the judges, it gave us confidence that our designs are good and made us aware that we lacked on our Logistics front and needed to be extremely careful for our next event, lest we might face troubles again.
We participated in Formula Student India 2016 held at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida from 23rd January 2016 to 29th January 2016. The competition was attended by over 100 student teams from all over the country and was a great opportunity for us to compete with some of the best colleges in the country.
With being unable to participate in any dynamic events in FS China '14, our spirits were down but still we persevered and decided to learn from our mistakes, and started preparing for our next event with even more vigour and determination. We dedicated a lot of time to thoroughly test our car, covering all possible bases, leaving no stone unturned. With our emboldened spirits, we proceeded to give our best in FS India '16.
NITKRacing had an extremely impressive showing at the competition. Our car cleared both the technical inspection and tilt test - a feat achieved only by a fraction of the teams who attended the event. This is evidence of our sound design principles and innovative approach.
The team performed well in the business section of the competition. We stood 1st overall in the real case scenario competition where teams were asked to set up a hypothetical manufacturing firm for car steering wheels. The team finished above colleges like IIT Kanpur, IIT Madras and BITS Pilani in this leg of the competition. The team also finished 6th in the Cost Report which is a reminder of how we are able to design an efficient car on a budget. We were awarded the 8th position in the Business Plan competition where we were asked to think of our team as a manufacturing company contracted to build race cars for a client. NITKRacing finished above IIT Madras and BITS Pilani and was the top ranked NIT in the competition. Overall, it was an opportunity for us to showcase our skills at the highest level and interact with international judges like Pat Clarke which has helped mould our design philosophy for the upcoming season.