Motorsport teams are as competitive to get into as the cars are out on track. To successfully pursue a career in Motorsport Engineering, students have to continuously find new ways to develop their experience, skills and knowledge to make themselves stand out. Formula Student is the perfect opportunity for this, however the growth of the series has resulted in 13 worldwide competitions, each with over 100 teams competing: Formula Student is no longer unique enough to impress the industry.
Therefore, today’s students have to find more imaginative ways to prove their enthusiasm for racing. One scheme that has gathered momentum is the Reiters Young Stars (RYS) Cup, which was established in 2016 by the German racing team, Reiter Engineering. This is a Championship that competes within the 5 rounds of the GT4 European Series, supporting events such as Blancpain and DTM. The teams are from 8 different European Universities and consist of 2 engineering students, 1 marketing student and 2 young drivers, racing a 2.0L KTM X-Bow GT4. Reiter have established a points system, where the Champions are not simply the fastest team, but the best in each discipline and the prize is a contract with a GT3 team for next year’s Blancpain Sprint Series Silver Cup.
“We have a huge amount of responsibility, unlike any other Student competition,” explains Hakan Richardson, RYS Team WP Engineer from Chalmers University. “It’s our job to get the car out on track, and improve performance, there won’t be anyone doing it for us. Reiter provide us with 1 Senior Engineer to advise us occasionally, which is a clever approach because they are there to help our confidence without interfering. However, Reiter really push us because they know, that to make it in Motorsport you have to be determined and decisive.” Each team also has 1 experienced Reiter mechanic per car, as well as several ‘floating’ mechanics, so if an issue arises, such as when Team WP’s engine blew at the Red Bull Ring, there was plenty of help to fix the car quickly.
The RYS Cup has been designed to expose the next generation of engineers and drivers to the challenges of the trackside world, whilst retaining a support infrastructure to help their development. This is a more sustainable approach then immersing inexperienced students into professional race teams, which is often the case when students hunt out Motorsport experience by themselves. There is no question that being ‘thrown in the deep end’ is the quickest way to learn, but when positions, points, and ultimately driver’s lives are at stake, the pressure can sometimes be overwhelming without the right support. The Reiter platform however, allows students to learn and develop with confidence.
“Formula Student was more orientated around Design Engineering, whereas working trackside is completely different, because it essentially removes the ability to do any form of planning,” highlights Richardson. “There is so little time when racing, you have to quickly prioritise and define a strategy whilst being able to cope with the continuously changing environment around you.”
RYS Team WP have access to their University Simulator which they utilise to help prepare both their drivers and engineers for each race weekend. The Cruden A646-D3 platform, together with the Panthera Simulator software not only allows the drivers to familiarise with the tracks, but also respond to any Balance of Performance (BOP) changes that can be simulated within the set-up. “There is quite a spread of cars on the grid, and one of the main ways they limit performance is through ballast,” highlights Jon Jaleby, Team Manager and Marketing student of RYS Team WP. “We’ve had everything from 80Kg ballast to 250Kg, so essentially we can have the weight of an entire Formula Student car added to our car.”
BOP changes can also include modifying the rev limit which can in turn, move the position of the gears and therefore the upshifts and downshifts. This can disrupt a driver’s driving style hugely, but by practising on the simulator, the drivers can adapt accordingly. “We can’t affect the BOP, but by using the simulator we can definitely be one step ahead,” concludes Richardson.
Although it’s not just the drivers that get to play in the simulator; every member of Team WP drives at least 20 laps before each race weekend. “This really helps because we not only understand the demands of each corner, but also know how much focus is required at each point to ensure we don’t distract our drivers with radio communication,” explains Richardson. “It also helps us with set-up because rather than just looking at corner numbers on a track map, we can visualise the amount of banking and how sharp a corner is for example. Also, as we have progressed through the season, certain sections of the track share similarities with previous circuits, so we can transfer our knowledge and analyse the data, having driven it ourselves on the simulator.”
The RYS Cup has given 24 students the unique opportunity to experience what it takes to work trackside and compete in a Professional Championship. The competition not only helps aspiring Engineers, but also potential Team Managers, whilst allowing young drivers to race, who before might not have had the finances or opportunity to do so.
“The Project has gone much better than I thought,” explains Hans Reiter, boss of Reiter Engineering. “On the first race weekend, the students were so nervous, their hands were shaking so much that they could hardly hold their pens in the pitlane. Now, they are able to run a racecar completely on their own.” I wish Reiter had started this project 3 years earlier when I was still at University…