Two teams from the University of Leicester have taken the top two places in an international motorsport design and simulation competition. UniFi Racing is a unique project which exposes students to the complete design cycle of a modern open wheel race car. Working in teams, the students are given the opportunity to develop the aerodynamics of the car and optimise the setup of the car using industry standard vehicle dynamics software.
Once their design is optimised, the students are invited to enter their car into a series of virtual races throughout a simulated race season. For the second year in a row, Leicester took top spot with Team Hill winning the best aerodynamic design of a FIA Formula 1 car and, this year, a team of Leicester students, Team Mansell, also took the runner-up place.
Team Hill won the constructors’ championship in the penultimate race of the UniFi Motorsport competition, having secured four race wins in the five-race 2016/17 championship.
Together with University of Leicester Team Mansell, Team Hill fended off stiff competition against teams from the UK, Portugal and Italy to design a winning Formula 1 car body which was tested in a virtual wind tunnel.
Philip S. Noble, Parthil Patel, Georgeous Gabriel, Michael Brooker, and Jamie Gollins secured the championship by finding a good balance between downforce and drag. They tested by Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) more than 500 different body shapes created in SolidWorks. The virtual testing environment Bramble, from TotalSim Ltd., guided the selection of the best performing design.
James Thresh, Nicholas J. Watts, Eeva Karner, Kyle G.M. Nicholls, Tendai T. Kachale, and Shane Perera, of Team Mansell, optimised their vehicle’s bodywork and secured the second place in the championship in the last race.
UniFi Motorsport Ltd, founded in 2014, provides a range of support services to Engineering students seeking their first role in Motorsport Aerodynamic Design. The teams taking part in this year’s competition worked to current FIA Formula 1 specifications.
Dr Aldo Rona, Associate Professor of Fluid Dynamics and Turbomachinery in the University’s Department of Engineering, said: “I am delighted with Leicester winning the top two spots in the UniFi Formula 1 championship.
The teams have really grown in strength and have managed the competition as true professionals. Each team member has made a valiant contribution to achieve the podium positions that led to their success against their international competitors.
“The UniFi Motorsport competition has enabled students to grow their fluid dynamic and CAD design skills in a virtual Formula 1 department, beyond our standard curriculum. Their teamwork is a delight to mentor and it is inspirational for their younger peers.
“The two teams received guidance and mentoring from Royal Academy of Engineering Professor of Aerodynamics Ivor Annetts. Ivor is a great guy to work with. Coming from an industrial CFD background, he provides an ideal complement to my own, more academic, support to the Leicester teams.”
Kyle Nicholls from Team Mansell, said: “The project has enhanced my personal student learning through allowing time for independent research and implementation of that research on engineering software such as SolidWorks, a personal interest of mine.”
“I have developed teamwork skills through collaborating with team members from different backgrounds, something industry and potential employers will require.” “The project should provide the basic understanding of the development and relentless research put into motorsports aerodynamics that I will need to pursue a career in the sector.”
The UniFi Motorsport activity at the University of Leicester is supported by a Visiting Professor award from the Royal Academy of Engineering. The project allows students to develop teamworking and project management skills as well as apply their academic learning to a real race car design and development programme.
This is as close to working for a motorsport design team as it gets. The problems are real, and replicate the working environment the engineer will experience on graduation offering the perfect complement to their academic studies which is possible today.
The project has been developed by industry experts to deliver an overall experience which is valued by the industry and provides skills which will be valuable not only in a motorsport job on graduation but in any professional graduate role.