The Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) Cape Speed team returned last week from the International Formula Student competition in the UK, having finished a respectable sixty-fifth out of 132 competitors.
To enter the competition, the team was required to design and build a single-seater Formula car, which took the CPUT students three years and R500 000 to complete. The competition was held from July 11 to 15 at the Silverstone race track, a week after the British Formula One Grand Prix. During the event, the car underwent both static and dynamic tests, with the competition culminating in a 22 km ‘race’, which was designed to test the car’s endurance rather than its speed.
The team passed all the static evaluations, which included the team’s business presentation skills, the costing and sustainability of the project, and the design of the Formula-styled car. Before proceeding to the dynamic testing phase, the car and drivers were also required to go through an eight-stage scruti- neering test. According to team captain Kerwyn Lategan, this included the driver safety aspect of the car, the weight of the vehicle, cockpit clearance and technical safety.
“We also had to pass an egress test, which checks whether the driver is able to exit the vehicle within five seconds, as well as a tilt test, where the vehicle tilted to 60˚ to check for any fuel leaks and roll-over stability,” he explains.
This was followed by a noise test to ensure that the car was within the stipulated 110 decibel limit, which caused a slight hiccup for the team, as the noise level was measured at 115 decibels.
Speaking to Engineering News after the team’s return from Silverstone, team vice-captain Michelle Minnaar explained that the team had not been able to test the decibel level before leaving Cape Town and so had been aware there might be a problem. However, the team was able to acquire a silencer, which was fitted to the exhaust and reduced the noise level to below 110 decibels.
During the dynamic phase, held on the second day of the competition, the team competed in acceleration, skid pad and speed tests on the race track before completing the endurance race on the final day of the competition. For this last event, the team finished twenty-seventh, having been one of only 62 teams that had qualified for the endurance stage.
The Cape Speed was singled out by Professor Isobel Pollock, president of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which runs the competition, for being the team with the highest percentage female representation at the competition. According to Minnaar, she was one of only two women in the 15-member team and both were mechanical engineering students.
This was the first time that CPUT had entered a Formula Student event and the team was the first South African team to enter the UK leg of the international competition. Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University previously entered the Germany leg of the competition in 2011, also completing all the tasks and finishing sixty-sixth out of 110 entrants. CPUT intends to continue entering the UK competition every second year.