Where the Rubber Meets the Track

02 February 2023

2022 marked an exceptional year for the UC Motorsport Club.

  • UC motors

2022 marked an exceptional year for the UC Motorsport Club. After the successful unveiling of the UC land speed record vehicle, attention is now diverting back to our formula division. This division is once again in top gear, with UC representatives participating in the Formula Student Competition.

The competition, which took place in December, was hosted by Monash University in Melbourne in collaboration with the University of Auckland and the University of Tasmania. The UC travelling team consisted of a mixture of early-year students, final-year project contributors, and recent graduates.

 Getting a car race-ready involves a litany of checks and pre-race inspections, a necessary but daunting process when considering how time constraints and travel can impact the team. Faculty supervisor Bruce Robertson broke down the standard operating procedure he encounters:

 “Each year I arrive in Australia about a week after the students begin testing the car locally, which is about halfway through the build up to the event. My standard arrival question is, what’s broken? but I didn’t get that far! At the airport a call came from the team leader ‘Are you here? Could really do with a chat.’” Bruce says.

 Tough decisions must be made to ensure the car is compliant and ready to perform. After battling an intermittent fault that rendered the 4WD system inoperable, the team fashioned together a solution with the help of the Monash workshop staff. Although in competition, sportsmanship between teams reigned high, even with some cheeky repartee to alleviate the stresses all teams were encountering in one way or another.

 Bruce details how “Two motors had to be removed and blanking plates fitted. The Monash workshop staff went out of their way to make some very nice pieces for us, even laser engraving in fancy lettering the words “not a motor” on the parts, presumably in case we forgot.”

 The morning before leaving Monash for the competition venue, Bruce had arrived at the workshop and noticed the “not a motor” parts on the bench and all motors back on the car. A bad solder joint was found in the CAN data system. After everything, the car was 4WD again and ready to go. Bruce elates, “It’s a roller coaster I tell you!”

 The competition starts with two days of vehicle scrutineering, described as the “worst WOF you can imagine”, which determines if the car is race worthy. While some teams had unfortunately failed this final inspection, UC managed to apply their issued requirements just minutes before the first race.

 The race consists of four events: acceleration, skid-pad, autocross, and endurance. While the UC team abided by the race regulations, their implemented modifications and unexpected mechanical malfunctions hindered the vehicle’s performance.

 After a conservative first acceleration run in a lower power setting, the team encountered a communication error between their laptop and the vehicle, rendering the vehicle to stall.

 Next up was the skid pad, traditionally a strong event for the UC team having previously winning the event twice. However, things turned sour as they encountered a problem with a motor temperature wire. In complying with regulations they had to remove a cable tie. This unfortunately resulted in an exposed wire.

 “The cable tie was removed to pass, and sure enough the wire was damaged as a result. The vehicle controller interpreted this as a byte of ones, being equivalent to 255 degrees Celsius. Very low power is provided at this temperature!” Bruce says.

 During the autocross event, the team faced issues during a preliminary rain test. Although the test revealed no electrical faults, water got into the battery. The car performed well on the first attempt, but on the next, the safety system shut it off due to water detection.

 Challenges ensued up to the final endurance event, where most points are earned. The team fixed all faults, dried the battery, and the car was 4WD and making full power.

 Bruce recalls, “I was sure it would fault on restart, but no! Lap after lap with the opposition cars littering the grass edges of the track, broken in a wonderful array of ways. On the last lap, with 50m to go, and you already know. No trophy for us!”

 Regrettably, a battery cell overheated. The team is uncertain about the exact cause but suspects the source could be either the software limit being set too conservatively or an altered cooling duct to prevent further water ingress.

 While this year, the UC team certainly faced their set of challenges, Bruce playfully surmises the experience:

 “So, it was a disaster. We’ve had them before, and we’ll have them again. Some tears were shed, and many grim faces. I know the pattern though. Wait an hour and the excited discussions begin on how we’ll improve next time. It’s a long hour for me, and I felt a little guilty, but within myself I was really happy with the whole thing. Awesome learning and life-affirming experiences all around. What’s not to love?”

 Even though this year has not been as successful as previous years, the UC team see themselves as down but not out. By overcoming unforeseen challenges, this year was a meaningful learning experience that reintroduced team members to the racing lifecycle, especially after the past two years with competition being suspended due to the pandemic. As the dust settles, confidence is running high with new ideas developing as next year’s competition is on the horizon. We can’t wait to see what the team comes up with for next year! We are rooting for you!


  • UC motors