By Sasika Jayasuriya
The story of how university students feel the exhilaration that comes from established racing standards such as Formula One by building and racing their own cars in inter-varsity competitions. [Stand First]
With a broken rear control arm, in Winton a remote area in Victoria, Redback Racing was forced to take initiative, fix the snapped rear control arm and take part in the Australasian Formula SAE championship. They welded it late in the night and came second overall in the championship the next day.
“In one of our safety tests, namely, the brake test, one of our rear control arms broke, which we had to replace, the night before the competition, before having to repeat the test to check the safety. We passed that, after which everything went smoothly. Until the endurance race, when it suddenly started raining, when we had to slow down a bit, compromising our lap times,” Yash Kedhar said about last year’s competition.
The team takes in students of any discipline, and collaboratively uses their knowledge to manufacture cars to compete in a wide variety of competitions. Including, internal combustion engine cars, and electric cars.
Formula SAE is the student formula race car competition, mirroring the standards and practices put forth by professional racing standards such as Formula One.
“Yes, it does mirror the F1 cars,” says Yash Kedhar, the head of aerodynamics. “There are differences, the noticeable difference, is the size of our car, as it is much smaller than the F1 cars, and the second difference is that for F1, the main objective is to see how good the drivers are and they put a lot of restriction on car design, whereas we are given more liberty to design the car.”
The variety of UNSW students within Redback allows for specialisation in Redback, such as managing the media and business side, and the manufacturing of the car.
“So, we’ve got students studying media, and like myself studying business, but in terms of the core technical team, a lot of them will be coming from mechanical and manufacturing and mechatronics engineering, and we have a few in computer science and various aspects of engineering. I think there are 2 of us right now, doing electrical engineering, including myself,” Jason Lim, leader of Redback Racing for 2019, said.
The reasoning behind joining Redback for individuals is often wide-ranging, however, a common denominator is a love for cars, which some come into Redback with, while some develop it after being in the organisation.
“As a kid, one of the dreams I had was to be a race car driver until I realised that was slightly unrealistic. But cars have always been of interest to me, but not exactly as a profession,” Deborah Lui said.
Jason Lim, by being a part of Redback for three years has developed a love for cars and racing that he did not previously have.
“But as I went through, I realised how many parallels they were drawn with, other competitions, other motorsports competitions. For example, being, formula 1, and other single seat competitions like formula E which is the electric division. So, I guess it is because of redback that I’ve developed a passion for motorsports,” Jason Lim said.
Given the parallels between racing standards such as Formula One and Redback Racing, the danger for the drivers is another aspect that has to be taken into consideration.
“Yes, the competition is somewhat dangerous. The rules have enforced safety standards for safety for our drivers and others on the track. One such example is the impact actuator of our car and the crumble zone of the car. The impact actuator is an object placed in the front of the car, which absorbs the impact of the crash and reduces the momentum the driver faces,” Yash said regarding the safety features of the car.
To prevent injury to the drivers who are also students, Redback takes many precautions to ensure the safety of the car and the readiness of those driving it.
“For the competition we have a lot of testing sessions, we have a simulator in our lab, where we test our drivers. Testing twice or thrice a week in sessions, to ensure readiness,” Yash said.
The car built by Redback is capable of reaching speeds of 140mph but the tracks that it is raced on, restricts the speed to closer to 60mph. The possibility of 140mph is comparable to that of Formula One, where with better resources cars race at close to 300mph.
The building of the car is a process that carries on throughout the year, throughout development to implementation and improvements that can be made.
“Everything connects to the chassis of the car. So, we make that first and then we know where to put everything else. So, chassis is like the whole body of the car,” Ken Nyugen, the technical head of Redback, said.
“We have to build a car each year, our designing process usually starts in January, and the design process takes a few months, after which we manufacture the car for the next 4 months, and the last 4 months include testing and competitions,” Yash said about the manufacturing process.
Regardless of the skill that comes from the individuals within Redback, the true strength comes from the team as a whole, working together to ensure that Redback continues to improve and win.
“After the competition, they bring in everyone to drive the car, if they don’t get a chance within the competition, this provides everyone with the opportunity to drive the car,” Deborah Lui said about the bond that Redback has.