When cleaning and chemical products group Procter & Gamble recruited a graduate engineering team from a US university, industry chiefs took notice.
As winners of the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers event in the US, which challenges students to build a single-seater racing car to a tight budget, the team had demonstrated its ability to cope with everyday manufacturing problems. Procter & Gamble, with no obvious interest in automotive engineering, had signalled the high price it puts on manufacturing experience.
Dr Adrian Cole, chairman of SAE UK, wants British industry to follow the US lead. He hopes to attract funding through sponsorship for a parallel competition which he expects will become pan-European.
The inaugural Formula Student competition was held at car industry research body Mira last month.
‘I want our industry to look at this and recruit just as Procter & Gamble have done,’ he says.
Companies can save a lot by getting the most highly motivated people who have delivered to a time schedule and made presentations to their peers and to industry, he argues.
An experienced team from Rochester Institute of Technology, New York State, took top marks for the design and presentation of its car, which is powered by a normally aspirated 600cc Honda four-cylinder engine using what the judges considered a clever twin-plenum variable intake manifold.
Entry criteria in the US and British contests cover the design, development and build of a single-seater racing car powered by a motor cycle engine which, in a limited production run of 1,000, sells for no more than £5,500.
There is no race. Cars perform individually against the clock and are measured for key performance criteria on the skidpan, on the circuit and in acceleration tests.
Competitors enter one of two classes those who have built cars and those whose projects are still on paper.
Among the 17 teams competing at Mira, the University of Birmingham won the Best UK Entry award and the University of Hertford won the Best Presented Team award. Both were making first-year appearances on projects they had started up to three years ago.
Some British students are old hands. In 1998 the University of Leeds team won in Detroit with a Formula SAE Best Innovation award. It has two cars and plans to race in Detroit again later this year.
In the US about 100 teams compete, sponsored by leading industrial companies such as GM, Ford and Chrysler, which use the event as a recruitment forum.
Welcome industrial sponsorship for Formula Student in the UK came this year from GKN Technology alongside consultancy Ricardo and Jonathan Lee Recruitment. SAE UK, Mira and the IMechE are the organisers. Next year the event will be held in June at Silverstone.
Individuals and companies can join the Sponsors’ Club with subscriptions starting at £50. Adrian Cole can be contacted on 0121 331 5723.