Power performance from Griffith Racing Team

Griffith Racing Team's Chief Engineer Jake Werninghaus with the rewards of the 2016 campaign.

Griffith Racing Team is aiming for a big leap in the global rankings after a strong performance at this year’s Formula SAE Australasia Competition in Melbourne.

The team, one of the smallest in the competition, tested its design and engineering skills on the Calder Park Raceway track this month with its custom-built, open-wheel race car developed over the past year at Griffith’s Gold Coast campus.

The Griffith Racing Team entry was placed eighth overall from 34 entries in the Formula SAE Australasia Competition, up from 14th in 2015.

The successful campaign is expected to lift the team into the top 100 in the global competition, up from 142nd  in 2015.

Major milestones for the Griffith Racing Team this year included first place in acceleration, a third in endurance over a 22km run, and sixth in efficiency, even though it was up against a host of electric-powered cars.

Griffith Racing Team in action on the Calder Park Raceway.
Griffith Racing Team in action on the Calder Park Raceway.

“It’s been a great campaign that has been rewarding for the entire team,” said Reece Schmith, the Griffith Racing Team Static Events Manager and a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering student.

“It’s especially pleasing because Griffith is a relatively small team of nine, in fact one of the smallest in the competition and facing up against the majors with crews of 50 or more.”

The SAE-A hosts the annual Formula SAE-A event over four days, testing the skills of students in design, management, manufacturing, communication, research and business operations in a real-life team racing environment.

Each team is then ranked individually against competitors in Europe, Asia and the US in what has become a major showcase of student talent for commercial interests.

“This year there were representatives from Tesla, Ford, Holden, Toyota and Defence Force recruiting looking to snag the best engineers from every team,” said Sean Lowndes, the Team Coordinator .

Two Griffith graduates at the end of 2015 have since taken work with PWR Performance Products and Nissan Motorsport.

This year the team’s Chief Engineer, Jake Werninghaus, secured work with PACE Innovations before graduating.

“Much of the success of the team this year can be owed to our team leader Ben Jackson due to his good project timeline and team management skills allowing all members to work effectively together along with the University,” said Reece.

Both Ben and Jake have graduated Mechanical Engineering with Honours.

“This is great grounding for students looking at a career in this field,” said Ben “Pretty much every F1 and motorsport team will ask their engineers how much time they have had in Formula SAE or Formula Student, so it’s a prerequisite for the industry now.”

Griffith Racing Team's 2016 car has beaten the filed in acceleration.
Griffith Racing Team’s 2016 car has beaten the filed in acceleration.

Jake said the 2016 Griffith Racing Team had learnt lessons after debuting in the competition in 2015.

“This year our main design goal was simple, smaller and lightweight and that has paid off,” said Jake. “At 195kg, the 2016 vehicle is 51kg lighter than the 2015 entry. We’ve pretty much taken the weight of a driver out of the car.”

Griffith Racing Team is already working on further improvements over 2017, particularly through aerodynamics. Sean, who is in his final year of a Bachelor of Engineering, plans to undertake a thesis on the subject next year.

Reece said while the immediate focus is on a combustion engine car, he forecasts the team will develop an electric car for the competition in future years.