Sunday – The Final Push
So the day was finally here, having spent the majority of our year working on the kart and been rewarded with the fastest qualifying time we were eager to not stop there. In our sights was the 50-lap endurance race. After experiencing a small motor overheating problem during testing we constructed a scoop to draw cooling air onto the motor and then it was time to practice battery changes. With the format having changed from 100 to 50 laps it was not a necessity to have a battery change however we had calculated that the lost time from pitting and fitting new cells would be more than made up for with the extra power we would have during the tail end of the race. So the race began, and it was a cagey affair. With a smaller pack than last year, of just 13 vehicles it was surprising how bunched the field was, continuous yellow flags kept any lead from being opened up and having reviewed the pace of the race it was decided that a battery change would not be needed. Luke defended well from the advances of EVC and Oklahoma and things were looking good.
We were 25 laps down and provided Luke could hold out the title was ours. However a back marker who had been forced to pitt came out ahead of us as we were nearing the start-finish line straight. Having been flagged the driver should have pulled to the side to let our faster kart pass but he did not. As Luke tried to over take the wheels caught and both vehicles were dragged into the side barriers. Rushing over to try and get the kart up and running again our pitt crew found that the two track rods had been sheared. It was a big blow.Dragging the kart back to the pitt we replaced the track rods and threw in a new set of cells to try and make up for lost time, but it didn’t look good. After getting back out Luke quickly began to move up the field but it was too late, the EVC team had already finished the race and we had to settle for a disappointing seventh position.
Saturday – Pole Position
After the hectic last hour of Friday afternoon we were keen to get up and running early on qualifying day. Thankfully the bad weather from the previous day had passed and after a small delay in getting our kart onto the ground we were ready to setup. A few final tweaks to the tyre pressures were made and we assessed our gearing options to allow more acceleration out of the turns. A three lap format would be used for qualifying with the best time taken from two hot laps to be used to split the pack into an A and B race. The qualifying time would also determine choice of pitt position and starting place for the next days main event. Having watched a few karts go round and feeling confident about our chances we were underway. Driving brilliantly Luke secured the fastest time of the day and we were in pole. Our confidence was growing!
Friday – Raining On Our Parade
First thing in the morning we successfully conducted our presentation, collaborating with the UK team. With that out the way it was time to head to Indy and to the Speedway for technical inspection and testing. Arriving around midday we set to work unpacking and then the inspection team got to work. From this a few issues needed to be resolved before testing could begin and with the day drawing to a close time was critical. The main problem was our front bumper mounting system, which needed to be beefed up; locking the upper and lower bumper bars together with magnesium plate did this. The electronic were then tidied up but just before we were ready to go the heavens opened. The changeable weather common place in this part of the world had done us no favours and all further testing was cancelled for the day. Scrabbling to stay dry under our gazebo we made the final adjustments so that we could the ground running on qualifying day.
Thursday – Great Success
With the kart now finished our main focus was to get ready for our trip to Indianna on Friday, we also needed to put the final touches on our technical presentation. The morning was spent communicating with our team in the UK so that arrangements could be made for us to dial in on Skype during the presentation and be available for questions. We also condensed the slides and recorded narration for the slides we were responsible for. After this it was off to the pits to get the kart packed and ready for our main test day.
Wednesday – Resolving The Issues
Having tested on Tuesday it was clear that work was needed to get the kart up to a race standard. During the latter stages of our session we had found that the kart was suffering a power drop off and the speed controller was recording an error. We found this was due to overheating of the speed controller, which in limits the motor power under these conditions. Therefore thermal paste was used to allow a more effective heat sink for electronic components. Work was also needed to comply with race regulations, namely securing with lock wire all safety critical fasteners.
Tuesday – The Mysterious ‘Black Box’
The day began early, heading onto Purdue University campus to find a base for carrying out our work. Next stop was an out of town warehouse where our kart had arrived the day before, thanks to the compact packing carried out by Crane Worldwide Logistics the kart was soon back at our workshop. The early afternoon was spent charging the batteries and fitting the new protection, foam/Tritek bumpers and side pods, then it was on to the test track. Testing the ‘black box’, created at the university to assess if our engine control unit was running within regulations, was successful. Afterwards several laps were run to get our driver, Luke Lynch, used to the conditions and to run a shakedown. Durability of the components was good however the session raised some changes, to be implemented on Wednesday. Loosening the roll cage to give the chassis more flex, exploring our gearing ratio and adjusting motor current limits were of top priority. Having spoken to other competing students it seemed out kart would be competing at the top of the pack come Sunday, these changes would help ensure that was the case. A video of the test can be seen here.
Monday – Planes, Trains And Automobiles Without The Trains
After an early set off from Warwick University our band of seven headed south to London Heathrow. Time on the eight-hour flight to Chicago was filled with revision and discussions on race strategy. After navigating our way through the Chicago rush hour and coming to grips with driving on the other side of the road we arrived in Purdue. We were finally here. Bring it on!