As the winter-break is finally underway it's time for UWR to reflect on the season they've had. Twenty-nine races, over thirty promotional events and the design, build and running of an IMechE Formula Student car made up our busy 2016 season.
March welcomed the University’s development partnership with Morgan Motor Company which lead to the running of the factory Plus 4 Babydoll in the AR Morgan Challenge; a championship that saw both AR Motorsport drivers Craig Hamilton-Smith and Tony Hirst consistently improve lap times and grid positions. April also saw our first clash of the season as alongside being the first round of the F3 Cup at Donington Park, it was also round 2 of the AR Morgan Challenge at Silverstone. Forward planning allowed for the teams to be divided and the two AR Motorsport drivers both had a successful race with Tony Hirst finishing third in class and Craigfinishing fourteenth in class.
The UWR F3 team had a phenomenal F3 Cup debut at Donington Park which, after a long winter break of rebuilding the Dallara F308, saw the team proudly take home a hatrick of wins and a fastest lap. Brands Hatch Indy circuit saw the team have to think on their feet and use the knowledge they had learnt in the workshop during the winter season when technical faults lead to problems for UWRs Shane Kelly to get off the line in two out of the three races that weekend. Students worked to identify the problem and the the teams hard work was rewarded with a win to finish off the second round of the F3 Cup.
It was then time for UWR to head to Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium where the team were greeted by a number of technical challenges which tested both the students' skills and determination. An unfortunate brush between UWRs F308 and fellow F3 Cup driver Daryl Jones’ Dallara lead to a pit-stop for both cars and quick thinking by our Engineering students meant that the punctured wheel was replaced and Kelly was still able to finish the race to bring championship points home for the team. Race two started confidently with UWR jumping into second place from the start at La Source. On the run to Eau Rouge the number 11 car was taken out from behind by a fellow racer which sent Kelly into the wall. UWRs Driver, Shane was unhurt and there were only minor damages made to the car. The team responded fantastically in repairing the Dallara the moment the car returned to the pit garage.
Another strong race weekend followed with the fourth round of the F3 Cup taking place at Oulton Park, Cheshire. The team were split once again with a number of Engineering students taking part in the UK IMechE Formula Student competition, Silverstone. A successful weekend for the FS team who designed, built and ran their own single-seater racecar in a number of competitive challenges. The UWR Formula Student team were proud to finish all static and dynamic events and walk away as the 12th UK University and 49th overall; an impressive improvement upon the 2015 car which saw UWR as the 27th UK University and 79th overall.
Despite the F3 team being greeted by very wet conditions in their first race at Oulton Park, UWRs Shane Kelly confidently pulled away from the line to lead the race. The seriously wet conditions lead some drivers to spin off the but UWRs Shane Kelly managed to stay focused which rewarded the team with a second-place finish. The final race of the weekend was on a damp-drying track, which was a challenge for our students to determine the right setup for the F308. Starting in third position Kelly and Line fought for second place until George missed a gear which caused the number 11 car of Shane Kelly to brake and drive across the grass. Catching up to regain his lost position, Kelly took the fastest lap of the race which in turn wore his wet tyres out and on a drying track and caused the F308 to lose traction at Druids resulting in a touch of the barrier, taking UWR out of the race.
With a six-week gap before the next race and with the help of sponsors Whale Tankers, Airweld and in-house Technicians Nick Skidmore and Matt Fenton, the students took to the workshop to rebuild their F3 in time for the fifth round of the season. Although this is not what any race team wishes for; the rebuild of the Dallara was an important learning exercise for the students. Brands Hatch GP welcomed summer with two warm races. After the rebuild, the team were keen to extend their championship lead which was done so after they took two fifth place positions home.
The penultimate round of the F3 Cup took place at the home of British Grand Prix, Silverstone. This weekend also saw UWR welcome guests and family members to watch some of racing action. After a wet qualifying, UWR started from the middle of the grid, with Shane Kelly fighting to get to the front of the pack. Kelly came across the line in fifth but due to two drivers receiving penalties for track limits and a jump-start penalty UWR finished third overall. The second race of the weekend saw an impressive overtake by Kelly on the inside of Wellington Straight which was received well by the cheering guests in the Brooklands Suite - UWR once again extend their championship lead by taking home another fifth place.
The final round of the season took place at Snetterton, Norfolk. Mixed conditions lead to a sixth place finish in UWRs first race, gaining one place on the teams qualifying position. The students worked hard to set up the F308 for the final race of the weekend, Kelly attacked the grid, determined to gain a better finishing position to secure his championship lead however, the team fell just one position short of securing the championship.
This season saw the Engineering students from the University of Wolverhampton narrowly miss out on winning the F3 Cup by just one point in their debut year; a Championship where UWR are the only University, all-student team to be competing. We are incredibly proud of this achievement and look forward to challenging ourselves even further in 2017!
Since the close of the racing season, UWR has been working hard to train their new students, prepare the Dallara F308 for its winter rebuild, start the design and build of the 2017 IMechE Formula Student car and also prepare both the Babydoll and ARV6 for the 2017 AR Morgan Challenge season. We’ve also been hard at work showcasing our cars at a number of large events: including the Advanced Engineering Show.
On behalf of the students and staff of the University of Wolverhampton Race (UWR) Team, thank you for taking the time to read this, for supporting our team throughout the 2016 season; and we very much look forward to sharing more of our story with you in the future.