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Thread: 2016 FSAE Australasian Driver Swap Feedback

  1. #1

    Cool 2016 FSAE Australasian Driver Swap Feedback

    Hi all,

    We had a great Driver Swap day at Oakleigh following comp this year.
    I just thought I would start this thread as a place to collect and share all the feedback from drivers.

    It was pretty obvious to me that the teams that have been participating in this the past couple of years have all improved significantly, one reason for the extremely tight competition we saw this year.
    Let's keep it up.

    From my spot directing the track all day I noted the following things:

    - Curtin, UTas, Wollongong and Monash all produced extremely quick cars, any of which could have taken down autoX or Enduro.

    - Newcastle and Griffith were two of the most improved cars this year. Both were extremely capable and I can't wait to see what these team bring back next year.

    - Tokyo Denki didn't get on track much at comp but showed at Oakleigh that they can still build fast cars. Was one of the nicest vehicles we have seen from them in a while.

    - Drivers are still a big part of this competition. Seeing our Alumni Trav in some of these cars demonstrated that most teams are still not getting the most out of their cars on track. A greater investment in driver training and seat time would yield better results for all the teams I saw at Oakleigh.

    - All the teams mentioned above really proved that they can build quality "weekend Autocross racers", which is the ultimate intent of this competition. All came down and ran all day, with unfamiliar drivers who quickly pushed the cars to their limits. At least one also survived a frontal impact with the tyre barriers completely unharmed. For me, this is the foundation of long term competition success.

    - We had no electric cars in attendance but we hope to see some of them next year.

    Thanks to everyone who came down for a great day!


    PS - when are some of the other comps going to run a similar event? A post comp test session at Brunty for the UK teams woukd be easy to arrange.
    Last edited by Scott Monash; 12-13-2016 at 07:39 PM.

  2. #2

    thanks very much for this. Would love for other comps to organize something similar, but guess this would have to be up to the teams themselves. The only equivalent I can think of is the [insert name] Open events that teams organize the past few years, which involves running but no swaps.

    IMO having feedback from others is the best way for everyone to improve, so please keep pursuing that!


  3. #3
    Thanks Scott, really interesting.

    There was a privately organized driver swap last year between some of the major "South German / Swiss" teams. I know that Karlsruhe, Munich and Zurich at least swapped drivers and learned quite a bit!
    I can only second that this would be really usefull.

    But now, I have to play advocatus diaboli here:
    1) There is only one competition the most Australian teams focus on. Why do still so many teams stuggle to get the car running? That is quite horrible to end a year like that, isn't it?
    I love the UWA designs (well to be honest the car looks not so nice this year but that is just looks). But sorry, when was the last time UWA had a driving car at comp? 2013? I mean, yes I like that they try stuff but.. all engineering is bad if it isn't finshed on time...

    2) Catalunya struggled to contend for a Top spot in recent competitions (e.g. 15 seconds off pace at FSG 2016 or 11 seconds off pace at FS UK 2016 or 23rd in FSG Design..)
    Now they nearly won FSAE-A.

    I know that they weren't that fast in AutoX as well and others (e.g. Monash) had some troubles.

    But isn't that not a bit of a bad sign for the Australian competition when we compare it with the developments in Europe?

    Can this all be tied back to funding as Australia probably has some money issues?
    Or is the lack of competition slowing the effects down?

    Best example are still the E-Cars. I think RMIT had one of the first E-Cars ever in 2009/2010 but they still basically have "old" technology in it with 2WD and stuff. If we compare that with the progression in Europe..
    2010 - start
    2011 - first self-developed motors (Zurich)
    2012 - first 4WD (Delft) and first time FSG AutoX win by E-Car against GFR (Zurich)
    2013 - Overall Victories in Combined classes at Silverstone and Austria from Zurich
    2014 - now -> well.. "monsters" is probably the right way to put it
    If you look at the paddock from FSG-Electric in 2016 you now see that also the "Midfield" started to produce amazing 4WD cars.. now it goes very deep into the Top10 and no longer only the Top4-5 cars with those impressive technic.

    Would be great to get your sense here!

    AMZ Racing
    ETH Zürich

    2010-2011: Suspension
    2012: Aerodynamics
    2013: Technical Lead

    2014: FSA Engineering Design Judge

  4. #4
    I can see your point, but if the aim of the comp is to train engineers, then does it matter if the cars here aren't full of the high tech stuff? As you already mentioned, lots of teams struggle to get a running car, which is the bigger issue for me. More tech is just a sign of more support form industry/wanting to do cool things.
    Rex Chan
    MUR Motorsports (The University of Melbourne)
    2009 - 2012: Engine team and MoTeC Data acquisition+wiring+sensors
    2013 - 2014: Engine team alumni and FSAE-A/FStotal fb page admin/contributer


  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    NSW, Australia
    Well, we could probably bring out all the excuses under the sun but at the end of the day teams seem to naturally rise and fall with the years, and I would guess that it's mostly down to whether individual members commit and come together for the right reasons and listen. The 'let's make an awesome gadget' mentality seems to keep appearing, despite all the best teams continuing to win by approaching it more holistically. Teams lose key members and university staff, who either don't offer ongoing support or are ignored, and it then takes a while to build things back up. Good IC teams get pushed down the electric path, causing people to lose interest. So many things can happen!

    From what I could see, the Canterbury car was awesome but had issues. Auckland could have won with some refinements of previous years car but instead tried to build an electric. Monash had reliability problems and newer drivers. Curtin had reliability problems. Catalunya may have had poorer results in other competitions, but they've had a lot of time as well. Not sure what happened to UQ, who looked to have a great concept last year. UWA have suffered through big lack of interest from their uni (Pete can probably elaborate a lot more here). ECU were MIA. Wollongong have well practiced drivers (as shown by their fastest lap sans front wing) so that certainly helped! Anyway, I'm sure there's more that other people can add.

    UoW FSAE '07-'09

  6. #6
    Having never gone to a competition outside of Australia it is difficult for me to speculate on why there is a gap between FSAE-A and the European competitions but here is some observations from my FSAE experiences and living in Australia. (disclaimer - I have missed the last two Aus-Comps since graduating)

    I also don't think it is fair to selectively look at UWA's performance and extrapolate from their progress the health of the Australian Competition. During conversations with team members a number of internal factors at their university have contributed to their current position which are not externally obvious.

    It think it is very difficult to compare how universities and their teams operate. For example - I have heard a number of European Universities allow students a gap year from their studies to participate in FSAE full time which I believe would be very valuable for a team. At my university there was no academic credit/benefit for work completed on the team (except if you chose a thesis which had an overlap) and team work was expected to be completed in your free time outside of full time tuition. I believe this is roughly typical for most Australian Universities. Juggling University, Work and FSAE was a struggle in my opinion.

    I believe a large part is the interaction and mentoring from professional industry which the European teams appear to manage very well. Mining and Oil and Gas have boomed in Australian over the last decade which has squeezed out many other businesses by driving up the cost of labour. Ford and Holden, the last two Australian automotive manufacturers, closed their factories this year siting the cost of local manufacturing. We are also a very small country population wise, vastly spread which does not lend itself well to economies of scale. This economic environment and our location is not conducive of industries such as aviation, motorsport/automotive design, rocket design, etc. which lend themselves to developing engineers from FSAE. In my experience many Australian graduates who excelled in FSAE move overseas to pursue careers in these industries. This then also leaves a gap for mentoring of current students in my opinion.

    Unsure how funding affects other teams in Australia but I never felt that it was a limiting factor in our performance.


    Edit: It may be a different experience for eastern states teams. And New Zealand is obviously completely different again.
    Last edited by Westly; 12-14-2016 at 09:38 PM.
    Curtin Motorsport Team
    2011 - 2014

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2005

    I was going to say a great deal about this Oz-16 comp on its own thread. But, frankly, I doubt it would make any difference. And I have many other things to do, more useful to me...

    But it is raining now, so here it is (briefly )...

    1) There is only one competition that most Australian teams focus on. Why do still so many teams stuggle to get the car running? That is quite horrible to end a year like that, isn't it?
    ... a bit of a bad sign for the Australian competition when we compare it with the developments in Europe?
    Agreed. This 2016 Oz-comp was a DEBACLE ON ALL LEVELS!

    Can this all be tied back to funding as Australia probably has some money issues?
    No way. There are NO "lack of money" issues. Remember, Australia rode through the 2008-GFC on the back of China buying all our iron-ore and coal. If anything, the problem might be TOO MUCH MONEY, which drives a "let's see what extra junk we can add onto last year's car" culture. (See below for an example.)

    Or is the lack of competition slowing the effects down?
    No. You only need two competitors to have a competition.

    It may be possible that Monash went backwards because of a lack of good, local, Oz competitors. But Monash also competed in three European comps this year. THREE (!!!), with FSUK and FSG being as good as they get.

    Nope, there is plenty of money, and plenty of competition, for those who want it. So what is the problem?

    The root cause of the PATHETIC (*) results this year, as in many recent years, is the complete lack of any NECESSITY. (* I prepared a very long rant regarding "pathos" vs "logos" in FS, but would that rant make any difference? Probably not, because of the lack of any "necessity".)

    Listen to the speeches given by the organisers at the end of the comp, and you hear everyone praising everyone else on the fantastically successful job they have done. Look at the facebook link below (edit: I added it in next post) and see all the Teams congratulating themselves on their fantastically successful year.

    Apparently an almost 100% FAILURE RATE is considered "success". Remember that Oz comps have two shots at Enduro. Did ANY Team complete ALL dynamic events "successfully", including BOTH Enduros? None that I saw.

    My point is this (and it is the same as I pointed out at length after previous Oz-comps).

    When you are out on the Serengeti plains and you have the above types of, apparently "successful", running races, then it DOES NOT END AT ALL WELL for you!

    Necessity encourages the animals of the Serengeti to run faster.

    A lack of necessity turns the cheetah into a fat slob. Think of the domesticated porker that gets an endless supply of food, no matter what effort it puts in.


    A quick rundown of top Teams in order of overall placing. These just from memory, no notes taken, so corrections welcome.

    P1- #10 UoW - Last man standing. They didn't so much win, but everyone else lost. Had a black-flag (oil leak?) at driver-change in Enduro-1, so would have been tail-enders in any major overseas comp. Nevertheless, well-done to Todd for his multi-year effort instilling a build-early-and-do-lots-of-driver-training culture.

    P2 - #E32 UPCatalunya - Very well run Team with much recent comp experience. But slow(-ish) car. By their own assessment their strength is the static events. Shows what you can do with a simple car that scores in all events.

    P3 - #66 Monash - After a disastrous European campaign (many failures) they decided to go "back to basics". Apparently, this meant fitting an electro-pneumatic clutch control. Yes, CLUTCH! So, in Enduro-1, with fastest car running first, so Monash running in the coldest part of Melbourne's four-seasons-in-one-day, they had electrical-noise -> intermittent-glitches -> clutch-slipping -> slow times. In Enduro-2 (hotter track = faster) they DNF'd due to cone-strike switching the engine off.

    P4 - #14 Curtin - Always put together a solid car. This year also surprisingly fast! Times on par with UoW in AutoX and Enduro. But remember Monash had their slipping clutch, and no other genuine contenders. And what went wrong with Curtin's Fuel-Eff score of 16/100? A good FE score would have put them on top. Was this a measurement error???

    P5 - #E88 RMIT-E - Came within a bull's-roar of 1st place overall, but again only because of lack of any real opposition. Very pragmatic approach to FS, namely build a fast car and make sure it works. Lost points in Design, probably because too honest about said pragmatism? Not sure what went wrong in their SP?

    And so on it goes.

    Both Auckland or Canterbury could have brought DETUNED versions of their 2015 IC-cars and won by the proverbial country mile. Instead they figured that "electric is the future". To be fair, if they get their 2016 E-cars properly developed for 2017, then they should be competitive. But it is no good saying "next year" when you have just lost a race on the Serengeti plains.

    Waikato WON Endurance ... and got 0/100 for Fuel Efficiency! Huh???

    Fastest car running first in both Enduros = BORING!!! No one I talked to likes it, so why??

    General running of the whole event was also rather slack. Why bother with an official Event Schedule when much of it is ignored? Walking the Kokoda Track between pits and dynamic-area becomes tiresome after a while. Repeating said hike (TWICE!) to get a cup of coffee is also not fun. Again, there is a distinct "lack of necessity" showing. Monopolies become like that.

    On the other hand, much praise to Rob Chadwick & Co for the layout of the AutoX/Enduro track (both same), and general running of the Dynamic Events.

    Ahhh..., much more I would like to say, but methinks it all falls on deaf ears.

    This Oz-comp will never get out of its current state of torpor ... until there is significant "thinning of the herd".

    Last edited by Z; 12-15-2016 at 01:30 AM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Some links for Harry and others wanting pics/times from this Oz-16 comp.

    Facebook list of Oz-FS teams.
    Many pics, and includes links to SAE-A with results, etc.


    Website with raw timing results of all Oz racing comps.
    (Click on "Circuit Racing" icon, then scroll down to "FSAE...", then click at right...)


    And something I came across recently, that all FS-C Teams might want to think about, given new engine rules...
    Suzy DR650 bored & stroked to ~900 cc. Many pictures!


    The main thing to take from this link is this. If a "bloke in a shed" can do the above in his spare time, then why is it so hard for University Teams full of dozens of soon-to-be-engineers to do something similar? Note the author's comments about "splitting the case" (near top of page 2). And note his comments at the end about the driveability improvements.

    Last edited by Z; 12-14-2016 at 11:01 PM.

  9. #9
    I share your frustration Julian, re teams not finishing their cars on time or being reliable at comp.

    That is something that many teams down here are still working on, Monash included.
    As we all know, this is an engineering competition, and the first task of every team is to bring a finished and functioning car to comp, but that doesn't always happen, and for Aus comp 2016 was not a good year.
    A lot of teams tried new innovations and it cost them quite dearly.

    UMelb jumped to a turbo? single and monoque and struggled to get out on track, when their performance from last year would have been enough to win it.

    As we know both Auckland and Canterbury gambled big on jumping straight to 4WD, a move that didn't bring overall results for either in this first year out (but Canterbury won skidpan).

    RMIT stepped up their game considerably this year and were strong contenders for the overall title. Theirs is a strategy that a really admire, improve incrementally while minimising your risk. If there is no pressing need to go 4WD electric to win, why should you in the short term?

    Was also great to see Swinburne really show what their car was capable of this year, after a few years of failures. Interested to see where they take things next year.

    Curtin are always fast and solid, but perhaps need more focus on statics to challenge more for the overall win?

    UQ came back with two very innovative cars and were probably short changed the most this year, with both cars experiencing terminal problems on Saturday which ended their weekend.

    From my perspective, Monash turned a corner at this comp, and I think are on the way back, having learnt some hard lessons in Europe and at Aus comp last year. Sadly for us we made a few silly mistakes and oversights which may have cost us the overall win, but great to see a lot more diverse teams in the placings, particularly endurance which came as quite a surprise to most observers.
    Demonstrates once again what you can achieve with clean consistent lap times.
    We will come back with both electric and combustion cars next year, but I can assure everyone that we will not be gunning for the top european 4wd monsters with our first iteration, rather concentrating on finishing every event and learning a lot in the first instance.
    Also trying to leverage the economies of scale that come from building two cars, like we see KIT and Munich doing, rather than two completely different cars from say UQ or RMIT (who still run completely separate teams).
    For us that is where we see the best value and long term gains.

    But I totally agree with Z, all teams (at any comp) really need to work to ensure that they complete all events.
    The top european teams are doing that really well at the moment and there is certainly a gap between them and most other competitors, but I do agree that the european mid-range teams are closing that gap faster than most.

    I should note that I don't mean to take anything away from either Wollongong or Catalunya who both ran excellent races and thoroughly deserved their final positions.

  10. #10
    Wow, thanks for the responses.
    Didn't want to hijack your thread Scott, hope that it's ok

    fully agree that "training engineers" is a very valid point. But two major parts of engineering training should be a) "project management" -> getting the car running in time and b) "progress". Sorry but if the cars are just hand-me-down copies of the previous generations that this is not a "engineering" practice, then this is a technician practice.
    The cars don't need to be high-tech.
    Built a 145kg single w/o wings and perform like Delft nearly 7 years ago at FSG 2010 and I'm fine with that

    sorry about the UWA example. That was just a bit frustration. To be honest, I don't know a lot of "the other" AUS teams besides the typical front runners so that was the only example I had. But I saw that a lot of teams didn't score dynamically, that should have been my main point.
    UQ is maybe an example of "tried too much" as well.
    The interaction with the prof. industry for European teams is not at all linked at automotive companies.
    Zurich is sponsored by BMW since the Fall of 2009 and they didn't really supported any of the car designs once. We had a good driver from BMW (former UAS Munich FSAE driver) in our 2012 car once who really helped setting up the suspension but that's about it
    Most of our "industry" support comes from small specialists mechanic shops and such that support manufacturing ideas.

    I don't know about the "at the end of the day teams seem to naturally rise and fall with the years".
    Since I know the competition in Europe, Munich, Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Zurich, Delft were always on top and there does not seem to be a big variation.
    I agree that sometimes other teams "come and go" as for example Amberg Weiden was reeeaaally impressive last year or Zwickau was quite competitive in the first years of Electric and Graz lost a bit of touch between 2010ish and the last 1-2 years.
    But apparently there is a way to prevent this fluctuation even if core people left.
    I think in Zurich we are now roughly the "4th generation" after the team that won the first competitions in 2010 and 2011.

    I get your points. Seems frustrating.
    Things can break, I witnessed that myself and they even can break if you tested and tried a lot. But if all cars somehow break that is not a good sign.

    Would it maybe help to have a "pre-competition" again? Maybe one in Eastern and one in Western Australia to prevent the long journeys?
    From my experience, FSUK which is usually the first competition of the year is also quite bad when we look reliability wise. Lot of DNFs, lot of "standing cars" (sadly also a lot of UK teams that only have this one competition and therefore experiencing the same frustrating issues as the AUS teams...) but further down, the teams get really good. I think in Spain when "our year is over" the success rate of Enduro is quite good.
    At least Zurich does not have a DNF in the "last race of the year" since I think 2009 when the questionable E85 killed the car in Italy

    Maybe it would help to have a "fixed point" about 2 months before the competition to ensure people work on a different time schedule?
    Potentially a status video with some requirements (e.g. show the car running skidpad 4 weeks before comp)?
    AMZ Racing
    ETH Zürich

    2010-2011: Suspension
    2012: Aerodynamics
    2013: Technical Lead

    2014: FSA Engineering Design Judge

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