Interview – LUMotorsport

Introduce your team briefly.

We are LUMotorsport, who is Loughborough University’s Formula Student
team. Founded in 2003, the team contains around 25 undergraduate students each year with members able to get involved from their first year through to their final year.

Formula Student at Loughborough University doesn’t form part of any degree programme, which allows students from any course to be involved in the project. It is instead run as an extra-curricular activity, so all design and manufacturing work is undertaken in our spare time. This has helped us to create a tight-knit, highly motivated team that is focused on achieving the best results possible.
This year has seen us switch our focus from a combustion vehicle to an electric one for the first time. The turbocharged Triumph engine that we have used for the last four years has been replaced by a single motor electric powertrain concept, which will be driven at competitions in 2021. The design and manufacturing work that the team has completed this year has provided a solid foundation that can be built upon in future years and it is hoped that the existing concept can pass electrical scrutineering when it makes its debut at competitions.

How did the cancellation of the formula student competitions impact your team?

Our university had already taken action to shut the campus before the Formula Student competitions were officially canceled, meaning no physical progress has been made on the car since the middle of March. So, for us, it was not having access to the workshop that confirmed that we wouldn’t be able to run a car this summer! Before the cancellation, design work had been completed and we were well into the manufacturing and build phase of our first electric vehicle.

How did your team deal with the situation, what challenges did you face and how did you resolve them?

Our biggest challenge has been ensuring that next year’s team is properly
equipped with the resources to complete the work that has been undertaken this year. The 2020 team is heavily comprised of final year students, so each member has compiled a handbook detailing the work they have done on the electric car. This gives next year’s team a great database of information to refer to if they have any concerns when building the car through the next academic year.

Furthermore, junior members of the team have been given a high level of
responsibility when composing documents for the virtual events, with final year students overseeing the process to ensure that next years team have a
comprehensive understanding of the vehicle concept.

What will you do differently for the online event?

Obviously, face-to-face meetings are unable to take place at this current time, so these have been replaced by regular online meetings to make sure that communication between team members is still taking place. As many of you have probably discovered, online meetings with a large number of people can be a nightmare, so we have got rid of our full team meetings for this reason! Instead, we are just holding departmental meetings with a small number of people where a member of the management team is present to deliver any general messages. Apart from that, the team is aiming to approach the online event in the same way as a normal event! This year is all about receiving as much feedback as we can on our very first electric vehicle.

What is your biggest achievement in Formula Student so far?

There is one moment that springs to mind away! Finishing in 4th position at
Formula Student UK in 2019 was our highest ever finish at a Formula Student event, so was therefore an incredibly proud moment for everyone on the team! It was a culmination of several years of hard work and a really fitting send-off for the team’s final combustion vehicle.

Do you believe the future of Formula Student can adapt to the COVID-19 crisis and how?

I think Formula 1 teams have shown that a racecar can be worked on even when following social distancing rules, so yes, I think Formula Student can adapt. A capacity limit in the workshop can easily be imposed to ensure that it is not overcrowded, and this will allow the car to built by a small number of people whilst still observing government social distancing guidelines.

What can the Formula Student organizing bodies do to help the struggling teams due to the current events?

I think it would be helpful for the event organizers to use their partners to provide teams with information on how the automotive and manufacturing industries have adapted to the crisis. This will allow all teams to safely build a racecar.

Do you think there are any positive outcomes for the competition from the current situation?

I think it has given people an opportunity to think on their feet and adapt to the situation. Things are constantly changing in the world of motorsport and engineering as a whole, so this has given all team members a chance to see how they can best adjust to the changes this crisis has presented.

Do you think it is beneficial for the teams to participate in an online competition and why?

Most definitely! As a first-year electric team, the online competitions present us with a great chance to receive feedback on our designs before finishing the build of the car. If there are any improvements that are highlighted by the judges, the team can address these and make next year’s car even better than it would have been this year.