Der Weg des Boliden
The racing car for the coming Formula Student season is presented by joanneum racing graz at the roll-out. (© FH JOANNEUM)

The journey of a racing car

Natanja Christina Pascottini,

Each year, students of the joanneum racing graz team design and build a racing car for the international Formula Student competition. This is the journey they have to complete.

Some 40 students from the Master’s course in Automotive Engineering, along with some of their colleagues from other courses, give up their time for the joanneum racing graz team. The team changes each year but the goal is the same: to achieve the best possible placement in the Formula Student design competition.

The king is dead, long live the king
The start for each new team is always an ending at the same time: on so-called Sponsors Day, the steering wheel of the old racing car is symbolically handed over to the new team. The students then immediately focus on the questions of: how much of last year’s design should be retained? What can be developed further? Or should we start again from scratch?

The team is divided into groups: Organisation, Powertrain, Chassis/Aero, Electrics, Suspension, Calculation, Design and Public Relations. First the design engineers work on simulations: they use the computer to plan the parts which will subsequently make the racing car a winner. This phase lasts roughly until December of the relevant season.

Screwing, welding, grinding
The individual parts of the new racing car then have to be manufactured. Here too, the students are involved: they make the majority of the parts themselves (with the help of various companies) while a few parts have to be ordered. Each year, the deadline is always hot on the students’ heels and they often have to work some night shifts to assemble and paint the car before the official presentation. Finally, the sponsors’ stickers are attached and then their new baby is presented at the annual roll-out at the end of April. This is a first chance to celebrate the finished work. But still there’s not much time to relax: the new car has to be tested, the students must train for competitions and trips must be planned.

Never stop pushing
Each team can choose which Formula Student competition to enter. Austria is very popular, of course but also Germany, Italy, Hungary, the USA and Japan. It is not necessarily the fastest who win these competitions but rather the best design engineers: students compete in both static and dynamic disciplines. The former include engineering design, cost analysis and business plan (for which the team usually seeks support from the business management courses). The dynamic disciplines include skid pad, acceleration, autocross, endurance and fuel efficiency.

You win some, you lose some
The overall results of the competitions a team has entered are then tallied to give a position in the global rankings at the end of the season. Over the last few years, the team usually made it to the top 10 – and sometimes even reached the top 3. The end of the season is given a fitting celebration: with Sponsors Day when the generous company partners are thanked and the steering wheel is handed over to the new team.

joanneum racing graz is a multi-disciplinary student project led by the FH JOANNEUM Institute of Automotive Engineering. Students spend two semesters developing their own racing car. The students are responsible for the entire production process: from the computer design to the finished vehicle. Students from the Institutes of Journalism and Public Relations, International Management, Electronic Engineering, Product & Transportation Design and Applied Production Sciences are also involved in the project. They have been part of the student racing scene since 2003. The team receives support from numerous renowned companies including AVL List GmbH. For more information on the team and all the competition news, see here.