Miners Fastest In Autocross!

ACDSC_7780.jpgS&T’s Alec Surrat pulled onto the course late in the day and simply blew the doors off the competition, electric AND gas-powered!
Conventional wisdom is that electric cars have the potential to perform better in autocross racing, but today wasn’t the case. In the raw scores Alec handily overtook Delft’s lead and crossed the finish line more than 1.5 seconds ahead of much smaller vehicles.
S&T didn’t actually win the event because cone strikes will add a few more seconds to the raw score, but it sure puts everyone on notice that this newcomer is quite adept at playing with the veterans.
S&T’s skidpad victory and superb autocross lap time means there’s been a steady flow of visitors in the S&T paddock. All wondering how something so big can be so fast.
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Well, if they’d look over the fence at the drag races, they’ll see some big American funny cars doing the same thing.

“Satisfied With Acceleration”

Car #45 ran competitive times in acceleration this noon. Their planned sprints were postponed about an hour due to a low battery.
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As mantioned many times before, S&T deliberately designs for handling speed, not so much to be a drag race blaster. We’ve heard somewhere that races are won in the turns, not the straightaways, and it’s the turns that really gets the customer’s adrenaline, uh, racing..
There’s a few hours of down time before the Miners hit the autocross track, maybe as late as 5:00 p.m. this afternoon.
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If anyone gets bored (hardly possible!) they only need to wander over to the grandstand area where American-style drag races, complete with Confederate flags, ear-splitting exhaust, and lot of burnout smoke.
Laughed Nick Schweissguth, “who knew we’d come this far to see American muscle cars?”
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What would a blog post be without mentioning our wonderful Mittweida hosts. Uve and Jens’ crew had some good acceleration times, but it’ll be this evening before we get more specific scores.
Note: You upper-middle aged guys whose first car was a little 1950s four-seater, we hear that you can still rediscover your first automotive love in Europe. Switzerland and Denmark are known as the vintage car hotspots. It might be a little pricey, but she’ll still be every bit as beautiful as you remember. And she won’t mind your paunch and grey hair even a little bit.
So, what are you waiting for?

S&T Doesn’t Have The ONLY American HotRod At The Hockenheimring!

Just as we were leaving the track tonight we were stunned to see some MINT Detroit iron showing up in the next lot.
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Plymouth dragsters, an absolutely cherry mid-60s Plymouth Satellite, and all kinds of other lovingly cared-for U.S. muscle cars, including a chopped roadster of some type. These folks would fit in perfectly in any stateside car collecting club.
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But let’s not overlook the Alfa Romeo funny car. Bet you don’t see any of those at U.S. dragstrips!

Speaking Of Our Gracious Mittweida Hosts……..

Here a shot of their team, complete with team member SpongeBob Square Pants.
MITTWEIDATEAMDSC_7385.jpg UveDSC_7364.jpgWe don’t know how they managed to get SpongeBob registered, but apparently they did.
By the way, that’s Uwe, the team’s engineering leader. That’s Spongebob at the bottom.

“The Big American Hot Rod!”

……..is what the announcer labeled Missouri STs #45 car, and that hotrod put on a pretty good show this afternoon.
Today was a roller-coaster ride of technical and emotional ups and downs. S&T got through tech inspection but found a leaky brake caliper just a few hours before the 75-point skid pad event closed for good. It took an all-out effort to pull the system down and fix it in time to get to the first dynamic event.
In the U.S. the figure-8 skid pad is normally run on dry asphalt; in Europe it’s run in the rain, as sprinklers keep car, driver, and pavement thoroughly soaked. Drivers dare not attack the course because it’s too easy to kick the drive wheels out and get a “DNF” for the event; steady, steady, steady on the throttle is the conventional wisdom.
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Derek Martin must have slept through the class about steady driving, since he simply burned rubber and threw the monster into the course. You didn’t need a timing display to know that S&T’s car/driver combo was the fastest and most aggressive of the day. The previous leaders, electric AND gas-powered, were notching times right at 6 seconds, and most teams were in the mid-to-high 6 second range. Derek scorched (?) the wet course in a blistering 5.77 seconds, then added the second fastest time of the day on his next attempt. And didn’t so much as brush a cone on either run.
Back in the pits a beaming Nick Schweissguth exclaimed “Performance speaks for itself!”
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When asked how he handled the car so well, a relaxed Derek Martin said “I’ve never driven on a wet course before, so I just punched it and drove like I always do!” When Mittweida driver (and good friend) Jens Fellmeth (photo, left) heard that he called it “Unglaublich!” (Unbelievable!) He was truly happy for S&T, since the team had been battling back from parts problems almost since they landed.
That’s especially kind of Jens, because late in the day some twenty teams still hadn’t passed tech inspection and scrutineering. European lineage was no guarantee of success, since it looks like most (if not all) of the North American teams made it through to the dynamic events.
Until then the afternoon hadn’t gone quite so smoothly. There was the brake leak to fix, and when S&T joined the skid-pad line, they had to turn the car around and head back to the pits for some unspecified problem. They finally rejoined the line less than 20 minutes before closing time, leaving Miner nerves more than just a little strained.
Tomorrow? Acceleration and autocross. S&T’s design strength lies in autocross, because the target market for these prototypes is the amateur autocross racer for whom handling trumps speed.

“We’re sitting pretty good!”

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Reports team captain Nick Schweissguth “we got through scrutineering with only small things to correct, all of which are already done. Right now our #45 car is waiting in line for cost evaluation, and at 4:00 p.m. Derrick Denlinger and Matt Laurent will handle the presentation tasks.”
We’ve talked so much about how much tougher the European inspection process is, but it’s more different than tough. Nick says “The judges are very supportive of having U.S. teams here, and it really shows. If you don’t answer their questions to their satisfaction they’ll keep rephrasing the question until they get what they want. It seems more focused on teaching that what we are used to in the states.”
Derrick Denlinger says “The judges are used to seeing similar versions of the same cart, and they looked at us as if WE had the exotic foreign car.”
The Miners couldn’t just ship unlimited tools and spare parts over here. Logistical costs meant they had to make tough decisions about what to bring and what to leave behind. “We are pretty happy with what we’ve done given our limited resources”, added Nick, “and we hope to get rolling in the dynamic tests late today.”
Bits and pieces…..
As we speak race volunteers are watering down the skidpad area of the track. Driving on a wet track is something we haven’t seen at state-side SAE events.
Walking into the track facility you’ll see a small go-kart track. Or so we thought. It’s actually a race course for Formula 1-style radio controlled cars. Trust us, they go fast.
The Hockenheimring has plenty of food (schnell imbiss) booths offering everything from crepes to doner kabob (Turkish BBQ?), feuerwurste to salads, all at very reasonable prices. Should when you visit Germany, get off the autobahn for your meals. Smaller towns offer great food, great atmosphere, and great prices. And you won’t be stumbling over some hamburger clown. Even if he does serve beer.
EVERYTHING here is first class! The temporary PR tent is massive. Carpeted, air conditioned,

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wonderfully furnished, and the Brunel display has Relaxsit , the world’s most comfortable futons. Comfortable enough for even the old and infirm.

Put Away The Rain Tires!

The weather forecast called for 40% chance of morning showers, a prediction that Missouri farmers would LOVE to hear. But just as in Missouri the rain is not developing and the rest of the weekend looks great for dry-surface racing.
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We should know in about an hour how S&T’s tech inspection is going, so we’ll just post a few snapshots of the Hockenheim facility and activities to, uh, “wet” your appetite for racing action.
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This Place Is NUTS About Cars!

There’s not much to report about Missouri S&T’s progress, because as of about 4:00 p.m. local time, they were waiting their turn in line for scrutineering/safety inspection. Race officials are spending about an hour on each car, so even with eight inspection stations it’s taking a lot longer than hoped. If the judges find a problem it may be late tomorrow morning before the Miners get it fixed and qualify for dynamic testing.
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S&T ended up next to their good friends from the University of Akron (left, shown actual size), and took the opportunity to relax and joke around. Both schools have strong tires to Goodyear, and often race against each other in Goodyear’s invitational FSAE event.
About being “nuts”………
Event sponsors from all over Europe are here looking for new employees, and are doing everything they can to get students’ attention. Slot-car racing in one tent, hand-eye-coordination games in another. Mercedes provides a full-sized driving simulator running a Play Station 3 program, while Continental Tires offers a free BBQ and gratis tire change services.
FeetDSC_7184.jpgMost sponsor booths are staffed by attractive young women who are probably local engineering students, and we’re guessing they speak at least three languages each, so this is NOT your usual car show in the good ol’ USA.
Earlier in the competition we saw a very powerful slogan in one team’s area that read:
One Team!
One Year!
One Goal!

Can’t think of a better description of the “who”, “when”, and “what” that makes up a student design team.
Walking through the waiting line we got a close-up look at other teams’ designs. There’s at least one car with the engine mounted to the driver’s side, which looks and sounds a little odd, but there are so many engine/drivetrain variations it’s hard to tell WHAT the preferred powerplant is.
And there are so many different approaches to teamwork it’ll make your head spin. One team member (at right, center) really put his head in to it. He stuck his torso so far up into the car’s nose he couldn’t get out, forcing his by-now laughing teammates to pull him out by his legs.
Central Germany is also an engineering student’s playpen! Half an hour east is the fabulous Technology Museum at Sinsheim where you can see the Concorde and the Soviet Union’s SST competitor, along with tons of automotive engineering feats. And check out the Russian Buran Space Shuttle at another Technik Museum just 30 minutes west!
Then there are the technologically challenged…….
S&T has a (sort of) German-speaking chauffeur who is very distrustful of GPS navigation systems. HATES them, to be frank.
Somebody programmed the car’s navigation system to provide turn-by-turn instructions. In Mandarin Chinese.
Remember, guys, revenge is a dish best served cold.

Hurry Up And Wait……

S&T Racing has been busy this morning, checking and rechecking, because Tech inspection here will be very difficult. It’s nearly 1:00 p.m. local time, and the Rolla squad isn’t even in line yet. They’re way down on the list, but they better be ready when called.
Other odds ‘n ends………..
PitsDSC_7128.jpgThis event is extremely well organized. The checkpoint people are adamant that “no pass, no entry!” applies to everyone. In spite of that the atmosphere in the paddocks is pretty laid back, maybe because of the creature comforts in the pits. Each team gets a portion of a sparkling-clean Formula 1 garage; plenty of light, power, room, and even real bathrooms instead of the ubiquitous plastic cubicles.
Very short distances between pits and inspection points cut out a lot of walking time.
A few cars are running on the test track, so we get the cool “vroom-vroom” sounds associated with racing.
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The team from Delft, Holland certainly brought their “A Game.” They showed up with a complete rolling machine shop, all bolted down to the floor of a canvas-covered commercial trailer.
Oddly enough as stringent as we see things here, there seems to be little requirement for safety glasses and other PPE. It’s obvious that OSHA’s reach doesn’t extend here, but the answer might be as simple as having fewer lawyers than the U.S.
Or that Germany doesn’t have the culture of backyard engineering that results in statements such as “Here. Hold my beer and watch this!”

Different Perspectives On Camping…….

Not sure how many teams actually made it to the Hockenheimring, but the Germans certainly have the lion’s share. In the host country the engineering programs are not huge operations that draw from across wide regions. There are many TUs (Technical Universities) and UASs (Universities of Applied Sciences) scattered across the landscape. Within just forty-minutes of Mittweida there are two others technology programs, and that makes it tough to find local sponsorship.
These teams don’t have too far to drive, maybe 10 hours at the most, so they can better afford to bring a bigger crew and set up nicer housekeeping than those who blow their budget on flying their car and crew. Aside from the Bundesrepublik Deutschland and the bordering nations, we count teams from Moscow, Finland, Slovenia, Spain, Italy, and Hungary for starters. The longest-travel-award probably goes to Australia, but India, China, Greece, Spain and Egypt have a way to go, too, as do the seven U.S. teams and a few from Canada.
So, what’s the difference between European and U.S. camping? Suppose we let YOU decide?
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Here is the local way of roughing it………………..
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And here’s the frontier-style U.S. teams seem to prefer. As if to pour salt in the wound, one team has wooden floors in their tent, while another has a hot tub. Well, it really is just a wading pool, but it was warm today. But the Continentals sure know how to do it.
What about the cars? Not much to report so far. Tech inspection started today, but S&T is so far back in line it’ll likely be lunchtime tomorrow before they go under the microscope. n the meantime the Miners are carefully going down the list to make sure nothing is kaput. Word is the judges here are tougher than stateside; a LOT tougher.
We did hear a great comment today from a Formula Electric team. One fellow asked another team for an electrical relay, but was turned away when they didn’t have it. But the comment they got was “The best thing about Formula Student is that you can ask anyone for anything, and if they have it they’ll give you what you need.” Nice summation!
Also, motorheads are everywhere in this region. When S&T was looking for injector O-rings today, no one had any. They found a small tuning shop and rang the bell. Turns out the owner was former chief mechanic of a Grand Prix motorcycle team, and was kind enough to peel two O-rings from old injectors and gave them to Komal. Meanwhile Mike Mason was tripping over his tongue at the world-class bikes sitting in this quiet little shop.
Lastly, trouble may on the horizon. Now that everyone is friends, there are rumors in the wind of gestational practical jokes. One must be careful; he who pulls the first joke has four days left to watch his back.
Just sayin’.