In July 2018, teams representing over 100 universities from more than 30 countries took part in Formula Student at Silverstone. The event is run annually by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and challenges students to design, build and race their own car.
Oxford Brookes is world-renowned for its motorsports courses and has many alumni in leading teams. But for the past three years a final-day jinx has struck the Oxford Brookes Racing (OBR) team at Silverstone. Would this year be different or would they miss out on a podium finish once again?
Thursday 12 July
Having set up in their pit garage 9A the night before, OBR got off to a strong start passing all the essential scrutineering tests on Thursday. The six tests check many different aspects of the car, including that the car can be tilted without leaks or loss of stability in the event of a roll, that the chassis is structurally sound, and that the car meets noise regulations.
Friday 13 July
Friday was ‘static’ events day but garage 9A was a hive of activity with the team giving their Engineering Design and Cost & Manufacturing presentations. The other ‘static’ event was the Business Plan Presentation – reflecting the range of skills required to succeed in motorsport.
Meanwhile the car, OBR18 – better known as ‘Frankie’ – got her wheels on the hallowed Silverstone track for the first time when the drivers took her out of the garage for a quick spin.
Saturday 14 July
By Saturday afternoon news had come through that OBR had qualified for the finals for both the Design and Cost ‘static’ events. With confidence high the team powered through the day’s ‘dynamic’ events: Skidpad, where Frankie was driven in figures of 8; and Acceleration and Sprint, a single lap of the track similar to qualifying at Grand Prix races.
At this stage the team knew they were performing consistently well – including 2nd place for Engineering Design, 2nd for Skidpad and 4th for Cost and Manufacturing. And Saturday night also brought some very well-deserved success for one member of the team, Maria Rubia, who was awarded the Craig Dawson Award for Most Valued Team Member.
OBR were in contention for the overall top spot but Australian Monash University’s two cars were both performing very strongly, and TU Munich, Poznan University of Technology, and Sheffield and Birmingham Universities were also going well. Could OBR maintain their good form into the final day or would the jinx strike again?
The Craig Dawson award
Craig was an Oxford Brookes student and OBR team member who sadly died in 2010. He was given the award posthumously, and each year it is awarded to a team member nominated by their team mates. Maria is the first Oxford Brookes student to win it since Craig.
“I still cannot believe it. A great effort has been made by every person in the team and we’ve all worked so hard this season, so this award is not just mine. It is ours!”
Maria Rubia, Aerodynamicist and Statics member of OBR
Sunday 15 July
Sunday was all about the Endurance event – 22 laps of the Silverstone track. And for the last three years OBR had failed to complete it.
Two laps in and disaster struck. Frankie got stuck in 3rd gear. OBR’s Endurance jinx had returned with a vengeance and hopes of a high-placed finish appeared to have gone.
She had never started up in 3rd gear before but neither the team nor Frankie were easily defeated and she chose this moment to demonstrate what a resilient, well-made car she was. This time she did start up.
The jinx was cast off and Frankie went on to complete the remaining 20 laps in 3rd gear. Not only that but thanks to inspired driving from Scott Ley and Robin Bailes, she finished third in the Endurance event.
So OBR were consistently strong in all events without actually being first in any. Would that be enough for a podium finish? There was a nervous wait for the final results eventually announced on Sunday.
So Oxford Brookes Racing smashed it – taking second place and finishing the best of British by a clear margin – their best ever finish in the event’s 20-year history. It was a fitting end to a year, and four days, of hard work and determination in the Engineering Building at Wheatley Campus and at the Silverstone circuit.
Words by Sirius Gibson and Sophie Jamieson
Photography by Lee Atherton
The 2018 Oxford Brookes Racing team:
Ben Scott, Maria Rubia, Adam Holland, Scott Ley, Robin Bailes, Tolga Guryel, Dan Widdup, Bradley Collins, Renato Pereira, Alex Craig, Gino Martens, Josh Du Feu, Victor De La Fuente, Joe Jones, Kyle Hey, Joseph Lysaght, Alejandro Garcia Guerrero, Sophie Jamieson, Iain Crook, Edward Rockett, Meghann Whattam, Ben Parker, Peter Kristof, Andy Coger, Jay Leong, Darryn Kelbrick, Brady Planden, Bi Lun Chen, James Collins, Ross Marais, Alessandro Saottini, Jesus Alvarez Garcia, Olek Warchalowski, Yuta Kanemaru, Juanjo Garcia, Georgie Crook, Alejandro Garcia Osorio, Anastasis Savva, Marco Benito Martin, Ernest Ruiz Anguera, Gina Felton, Chris Shawe, Holly Watson Nall, Felix Althaus and Simone Moriconi.
The team would like to thank the following Oxford Brookes staff for their support: Gordana Collier, Adrian Ward, Paul Roberts, Ian Spacksman and Douglas Daniel.