October 29, 2019
Mentally, it is like being in a tunnel
Backstage stories of the quadruple success with a world record of the TUfast Racing Teams during the Formula Student season 2019
In just around nine months, the Formula Student team of the Technical University of Munich built a new electric and a new driverless race car for the 2019 racing season. And this hard work of the young engineering team paid off: at the four major European competitions in Hungary, Austria, Germany and Spain, the eb019, so the name of the TUfast electric car, won. Reilhofer KG has been a premium partner since spring 2019 as a sponsor of the eb019. At the end of the season we met Eva Herrmann, TUfast Team Manager of the 2018/19 season, and Alexander Barz, Technical Director eb020 for the upcoming 2019/20 season.
RHF: Congratulations to the team for the quadruple success at the Formula Student races 2019. You have won all four competitions and won prizes in many other individual categories. Which of the prizes are you particularly proud of and why?
Eva (TUfast): This is quite hard to say. The real highlight is indeed the quadruple. We still can’t believe it. We have managed to win four consecutive European competitions and are among the race records with this. But of course there are also some individual results that fill us with additional pride. On the one hand, there is the overall victory in our domestic competition: the fact that we win Formula Student Germany has long been our goal, and this year we have finally made it. A great team success! We are also proud of the newly established Formula Student world record in Skid Pad with 4,698s at the Hockenheimring. (Skid pad = lateral acceleration during a constant circular ride)
RHF: What was this year’s biggest challenge in the design and construction of the race car?
Alexander (TUfast): The biggest challenge is to set up a team of inexperienced students and equip them with the necessary knowledge in the shortest possible time. Because we not only want to keep the project at the same level, but also want to improve ourselves in all areas, such as manufacturing quality, lightweight construction, innovation, etc. On the top of that, students must be intrinsically motivated to put their studies in jeopardy in order to participate full-time in the project. Without material consideration, simply because of the chance of success in competition and for one’s own ambition. This is the nature of Formula Student.
Eva (TUfast): And because we are completely rebuilding for each season, the processes in the team have to be right and the commitment, too, otherwise it won’t work. Our team consists of almost 100 members who get involved with the project and whose tasks must be clear with such a tight schedule. I was a team manager for a year now – and in that time I could hardly do anything else. That is why I now pass on the tasks of the team manager to Florian Schuster. And I know he’s already sweating on the high expectations for the coming season (laughs). No, all joking aside. Our team is really great and we have proven that we can work together. Of course, the joy and the fun are always with us. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the whole team for their tireless dedication, fun at work and professionalism.
RHF: Success has really set in this season. When was it predictable that you would finish the races so successfully or was it pulsating until the last minute? Are there differences between the races?
Eva (TUfast): Actually, it’s exciting at every race until the very end. Because many of the other teams are strong competitors. At FS East in Hungary, for example, 73 teams competed this year, and at the Hockenheimring during FS Germany there were even 113 teams in the 3 categories Combustion, Electric and Driverless. There is nothing to give away. Challenges can be the scarce time slots in the so-called “scrutineering”, in which the technical compliance of all participating vehicles is checked. And sometimes the static events, such as Cost Report or Engineering Design, take place at the same time, while the vehicles have to be in the box. So it happens that certain scrutineering events unfortunately cannot take place in the planned period and have to be made up, under also tight time conditions and according to the motto “first come, first serve.” Our driverless db019 had to experience this circumstances, that due to time constraints he could not pass all tests of scrutineering, which brings a painful loss of points with it.
In the static disciplines, it is then necessary to convince the officials. Sometimes it succeeds, and sometimes not. For example, we achieved good results at the business event in Hungary and Austria. In Germany and Spain we only made it to the 25th place in the “Business Plan” category. But the four competitions had one thing in common: on the racetracks during the dynamic events, our eb019 was always convincing.
RHF: Once a driver is sitting in a race car just before the start of a race and the whole team is hoping in him or her, as well as in the car, what is going through his head and how does he feel when he passes the finish line?
Alexander (TUfast): Mentally, it is like being in a tunnel. In mind, you go through the first corners again and check all settings in the vehicle. Sure, there is a lot of pressure, but as soon as you have driven the first few metres, it’s gone and you are so focused to drive a perfect and fast lap. At the finish line, the thoughts come into your head: What was the time? Where do you stand in the competition? And did you throw a hat? But only half the work has been done there. This is followed by rescrutineering, where there is still a certain tension.
RHF: In addition to the electric car, you have also built a driverless. What are the most important tasks compared to electric car?
Alexander (TUfast): There is still a great deal of research and development in the field of autonomous driving, so that there are still many questions and unaccepted answers. Implementing this new field of technology in such a small team of students is one of the biggest tasks to be mastered at the moment. Especially when implementing the software, we still have to acquire a lot of knowledge that we have already gained in other fields over the years. But we have also made huge progress in the field of autonomous driving over the last three years and were able to celebrate greater success this season.
RHF: What about the races on site: Do you already know the other teams from previous years and how would you explain the collaboration among the teams on such a race? Is there serious competitive thinking or are you also cheering for the successes of others?
Eva (TUfast): The cooperation in these competitions is simply intoxicating. You know each other and you also share each other’s excitement and success. Ok, for some sometimes more than for others, but there is hardly any real competitive thinking. It is precisely this team spirit that makes up these competitions. The atmosphere is always very collegial, friendly and fun. In Spain, for example, there is also a cultural dinner every year, where almost every team contributes some typical cuisine to dinner. There is pulled pork or paella prepared. This year we actually wanted to provide a dessert: rice pudding. But the old saying applies: “A cobbler should stick to his last”, because our engineering chefs have let the food burn. Luckily, we always have enough delicacies in our luggage: good Bavarian beer. So everyone is still satisfied in the end.
RHF: Now this year’s racing season is over already. What are your goals for the next cars and the 2020 season?
Alexander (TUfast): We continue to focus on lightweight construction, aerodynamics and driving dynamics control, as we believe they deliver the highest performance. Of course, we would also like to build on the successes of this season. To achieve this, we are taking in existing successful ideas and concepts and trying to get two reliable and fast racing cars back on the track. The knowledge we have gathered over the years will help us in this. But we are TUfast: so we, of course, do try out new, particularly extravagant concepts again.
RHF: Well that makes us curious about the next season. And if you could choose a Formula Student race in this world where you would love to take part in, which one would it be and why?
Alexander (TUfast): In addition to the big events in Europe, which we go to every year, we occasionally go with a small group to the USA or Australia. There is a very different atmosphere there and you get to know other teams that don’t make it to Europe. The competition at Silverstone also has a certain class of its own, because that is where Formula1 is at home. But the competitions in Hockenheim and Spielberg are just as special. There is usually the biggest competition and you can look at the most unusual concepts of the best teams.
We wish the TUfast Racing Team every possible success. For us as a partner, a joint measurement in the field of early stage damage detection will take place soon, directly in the eb019 on the race track. Therewith we want to support TUfast in the best possible way in optimizing the cars for the 2020 season. We will report on it…