28 July 2021

University of Sheffield students race into history books with win at Silverstone

Engineering students from the University of Sheffield have made history by winning a prestigious racing competition at one of the world’s most famous racing circuits.

The University of Sheffield's Formula Student team
  • University of Sheffield engineering students have become only the second British team in history to win the prestigious Formula Student UK competition at Silverstone
  • Formula Student sees teams of engineering students from around the world design, build and race their very own single seat racing car
  • Competition is backed by the motorsport industry and seen as the standard for engineering graduates to meet, helping them make the transition from university to the workplace
  • Sheffield Formula Racing fended off fierce competition from multiple teams to win the biggest prize in student motorsport

Engineering students from the University of Sheffield have made history by winning a prestigious racing competition at one of the world’s most famous racing circuits.

Sheffield Formula Racing, based in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and made up of students from across the University’s Faculty of Engineering, has become only the second British team in history to win the Formula Student UK competition at Silverstone.

The annual competition, run by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), sees more than 100 teams of engineering students from universities around the world design, build and race their very own single-seat racing car. Previous winners include; Cardiff University, University of Stuttgart (Germany), TU Delft (Netherlands), Georgia Tech (USA), and Monash (Australia).

Starting in September, each team develops their own race car throughout the course of the year alongside their studies, taking charge of all aspects of the car from its design through to the build and testing.

The teams then compete against each other in a series of static and dynamic events over a weekend at Silverstone to decide the overall winner. Prizes are also awarded to teams in categories designed to test various aspects of their race car.

The Sheffield team took the lion’s share of the trophies this year, picking up 8 out of a possible 13 awards including; Overall Engineering Design, Design for Second Year Vehicles, Most Efficient Internal Combustion Vehicle, and winning the Endurance and Sprint dynamic events.

The competition is the biggest prize in student motorsport and viewed by the motorsport and wider automotive industry as the standard for engineering graduates to meet, further helping them to make the transition from university to the workplace.

Formula Student is backed by industry and high profile engineers, such as Ross Brawn OBE, Managing Director of Motorsports and Technical Director of Formula 1, and aims to encourage more young people to take up a career in engineering.

Along with the difficulties brought by the pandemic, the Sheffield team overcame a number of challenges throughout the year to build a championship-winning race car.

Operating with a reduced budget, the team successfully sought significant new sponsors in The Reece Foundation and William Whiteley & Sons, and also used contributions from their own team members to ensure they could get their car to Silverstone.

The Sheffield students worked tirelessly through constant challenges, such as having to rewire the car’s entire electrical system one week prior to the competition and discovering water contaminating the engine oil.

On arrival at Silverstone yet more water was found inside the engine and the students had to quickly design, build and fit a new brake pressure sensing system, in time to pass scrutineering checks ahead of the races. 

The car made it onto track for the timed single lap ‘Sprint Event’ with 10 minutes to go, just enough time for driver Alex Smith to complete his two attempts, the second of which was quick enough to win the event.

However, the team then had to overcome another setback after discovering a brake system leak on the Sunday morning of the competition. The team quickly diagnosed and repaired the rear brake system, making it to the 28 lap ‘Endurance’ event. Ami Jerger joined Alex in driving the car to first place.

Sam Williams, Team Principal of Sheffield Formula Racing, said: “I still cannot put into words how I feel about this success. After such a year where it was hard to know if our decisions were correct and with the challenges leading up to and during the event, it does not feel real that we won. If you’d told us at 5pm on Saturday that we’d even see the car compete at this point, we’d have never believed it!

“This is a dream come true and I am so grateful this team, sponsors and the University have given me the opportunity to do this. This is a very special moment in our careers and I cannot wait to see what this talented group achieves in the future.”

Driving our car at Silverstone was a moment I’ll never forget. The car gripped so well, the power was instant and hearing the team cheering - even over the sound of the engine - reminded me I wasn’t alone out there and that we’re a powerful and supportive group of friends.

Ami Jerger

Driver for Sheffield Formula Racing

Alex Smith, Driver for Sheffield Formula Racing, added: “The team did an absolutely amazing job to get a great performing car on track which I was able to drive to both Sprint and Endurance victories. I can't wait to help design, build and drive the future cars and see how the team builds on this incredible success.”

Dr Tom Slatter, Academic Lead of Sheffield Formula Racing, said: “The success of this year’s team builds on 11 years and several generations of amazing students that I have been privileged to supervise as the academic lead of Formula Student. I am constantly in awe of the level of commitment and engineering ability shown by them.”


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