Published: 11 August 2020

Surrey Mechanical Engineering students win global virtual racing event

A team of undergraduate students from Surrey’s Department of Mechanical Engineering Sciences overtook national and international competition to claim first place in the Formula Student Virtual Dynamic event.

The annual high-octane occasion, which is organised by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), usually sees teams from universities around the world descend on Silverstone, home to the British Formula 1 Grand Prix. Once there, they race against one another in single-seater racing cars they’ve designed and built. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, this year’s championships saw the teams contest a series of online events from the safety of their own campuses.


Entrants competed in two main categories, namely Virtual Dynamic events and Virtual Static events. Being pitted against national rivals such as Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge, plus international entrants from Hong Kong and India, didn’t see Surrey stall in the starting grid though. Instead, they roared past the competition, leaving them in their virtual slipstream to claim first place in the Overall Virtual Dynamic event.

“Surrey’s Team SURTES (Surrey University Racing Technology Engineering Solutions), which is composed of undergraduate students from the first to the fourth year of study, performed exceptionally well,” says Dr Davide Tavernini of our Department of Mechanical Engineering Sciences, who’s also Surrey’s academic coordinator for Formula Student.

Constructor challenges

The biggest challenge of the event was for the Surrey team to tune numerous parameters, such as wheel alignment, suspension settings and the aerodynamic kit of the vehicle, in the simulation platform provided by IMechE.

“Fortunately, students already had a huge amount of knowledge in these areas after learning about vehicle dynamics, chassis engineering, aerodynamics and powertrains while designing and simulating their race car during the academic year,” added Davide. “In fact, Formula Student is fully integrated into our engineering courses in the third-year Group Design Project and the fourth-year Multi-disciplinary Design Projects.

“The team was also strengthened by members of the Formula Student Society.”

In the simulations, the vehicle was driven by a virtual driver on the same track as the original event at Silverstone in a lap-time simulation fashion. In a second phase, students had the opportunity to drive their own set-up racing vehicle inside the simulation software.

Mechanical Engineering Sciences undergraduate Jonathan Watts commented: “The racing for this year’s Virtual Dynamic competition may not have been real, but the intensity of the preparation, the stress on the day and the skills we developed as a result certainly were.”

Winning formula 

And all that intensity and preparation secured the win for Team SURTES.

Davide continues: “Participating in Formula Student is an excellent calling card for students seeking a career in the motorsport industry. Companies accept graduates that can demonstrate the kind of practical experience and team work skills that distinguish Formula Student from similar competitions.

“It’s the sort of additional experience that really can put you in pole position when applying for a job in this area, and it’s a component that Surrey offers all undergraduate students within the Mechanical Engineering Sciences department.”

Team member and undergraduate Kamen Shishkov added: “The IMechE organised a brilliant Virtual Dynamic competition that tested the skills we gathered over the past year designing our latest challenger. I’m extremely proud of the team that took on the challenge and performed on the highest level.”

Even better, those applying for jobs from this year’s team can add the title ‘2020 Virtual Dynamic event champion’ to their CV.

Find out more about studying for an undergraduate degree in our Department of Mechanical Engineering Sciences.

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