"I believe if you are doing something like competing, like motor racing, you either do well or forget it."
Ayrton Senna, F1 driver
With a rather mediocre performance in last year's Formula Bharat, the importance of funding such an expensive project as Formula Student in IIT Kharagpur was in question. It was clear that the next competition could very well be their last campaign. Amidst increasing pressure, they were allowed to participate in Formula Bharat 2020.
As the team leader, Tushar Patle says, "We wanted to prove to the institute and the faculty and they were not wrong in trusting us and supporting us even after a mediocre performance last year. We had a simple goal. Make a car within a year and participate in all dynamic events. Our Team had not been able to achieve either of those in the last 4-5 years. Fulfilling these goals under pressure was challenging."
Tushar, a third-year mechanical engineering undergrad, led a team of around 30 members, which comprised second and third-year students from various departments.
Formula Bharat is an annually held student engineering competition at the Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore, India and draws participation from several national teams across the country. TeamKART, the official Formula Student team of IIT Kharagpur is one of the many teams which participated in Formula Bharat 2020. This is their success story as they change from underdogs to front liners.
Before May 2019, the Team was successful in getting an initial design of the car ready and manufacturing of the cars was already in the works. The design phase was short and they had decided against taking risky challenges. Instead, it was decided that the focus would be on simplicity and reliability. This resulted in some design changes from the last year's car, the K4.
The K5, as it was named, didn't feature any aerodynamic devices and had some compromises on some other subsystems as well. They decided to remove electronic gear shifter and anti-roll bar in the K5 which was implemented on the K4. Instead, a new DAQ system was planned. The Data Acquisition System, or DAQ as it is often abbreviated, was one of the highlights of the K5. In essence, there were a few sensors installed in the car and data from those sensors were stored for further analysis. The K5 also featured a custom-designed radiator and full carbon fibre bodyworks.
The Team completed the entire manufacturing of the car by the end of November. A little more than a month was left for testing and driver training. The drivers were naturally those members who had been an integral part of the Team for around three-four years now. Extensive practice sessions were held in the last few weeks of 2019 to test the limits of the car and the drivers.
Vatsal Kapadia, a third-year mechanical engineering undergrad recalls, "It was tough, to work the entire night on the car and then to drive for more than 2 hours in the morning. We had to do an extensive workout to ensure we had sufficient fitness, and the testing phase was physically straining for us drivers ."
As the new year began, the members returned to campus with immense self-belief on their efforts till then. The car had performed well in the testing phase, and the competition was less than 20 days away. "We were confident in our car. In the last few days before the competition, the team worked with enormous enthusiasm while preparing for transportation of the car to the venue. They knew they'd perform well," recalls Aastha Sharma, deputy team leader at TeamKART. The car was then transported on 15th January 2020, to the event venue, the Kari Motor Speedway, at Coimbatore.
The competition began on January 21, 2020. Formula Bharat is a five-day event, comprising three 'static events' (Cost and Manufacturing, Business Plan, Design) where teams are judged on their design justification, business presentation and costing skills, and four 'dynamic events' (Acceleration, Skidpad, Autocross and Endurance & Efficiency) which test the performance of the car and student drivers on-track.
For participating in the dynamic events, all teams must necessarily qualify the technical inspection where judges qualify the car as safe enough for the competition. The technical inspection comprises mechanical scrutiny and three tests- tilt, noise and brake.
TeamKART was the second Team to clear the mechanical scrutiny, on Day 1 itself, which is no small feat considering there were more than 50 participating teams. On the very same day, they finished the tilt test as well. On day 2, they was busy in static events. TeamKART was placed 5th in the Design event, which was an accomplishment in itself considering the various financial and time constraints they faced while designing. On day 3, the Team cleared the brake test, which meant that TeamKART had now qualified for the dynamic events, a first in many years for them. They also managed to bag the first runners-up position in the Business Plan Presentation, which has been a forte for TeamKART ever since it was bagged the same position in Formula Bharat 2017. The Team then took its car to the Dynamic events. A moment that was a dream come true for all the former team members, the alumni and the current members as well. This was the ambition they had worked for, the past one year and they were witnessing it.
The K5 managed to clock quick lap times in the three dynamic events held. Below mentioned are some of the results:
- Acceleration - 6.15s (Best 4.93s)
- Autocross - 1min 34.271s* (Best 1min33.264s)
- Skidpad - 6.744s(5.944s*) (Best 5.5s) (* time without penalty)
Overall, the Team ended up with a brilliant 10th, a significant improvement over last year's dismal performance. Throughout the competition, they interacted with other teams, observing and discussing the different design and manufacturing approaches they followed. This is perhaps the biggest takeaway in the Formula Student competitions across the globe- that all teams learn a lot from each other. The competition also provides the members with an opportunity to interact with the veterans of the motorsports community, like Pat Clarke and Claude Rouelle, who have judged various Formula Student competitions around the world.
TeamKART now aims to participate in Formula Bharat 2021, an attempt to continue its dramatic shift to the one car a year choice, which proved to be transformative. In fact, the Team has already started working on its next vehicle, the K6, which will be a big design upgrade with some significant changes. Formula Bharat 2020 will nonetheless be a milestone in their history. The team is now deeply motivated to prove its mettle to everyone once again and continuously stand up to the high expectations now onwards, making the institute and the faculty proud.
In this journey, TeamKART would like to thank their faculty advisors, namely, Prof. D.K. Srivastava, Prof. S.K. Panda, Prof. Amiya Mohanty(current H.O.D. of the mechanical department and former faculty advisor), Prof C.S. Kumar and Prof. Atul Jain for their constant support and help throughout our preparation.