The First Miles
A slow start for what will be a long and thrilling journey.
So, last week I finally decided to appear again on DriveTribe and start telling you my story of how I will become a Motorsport Engineer. Yes, this "series" will last quite some time, as it takes 5 years to complete the course, but hopefully it will be exciting for you to know the things that you need to do in order to be part of the brilliant minds that design and build the fastest cars on earth.
The First Weeks
Let's start this by telling you how has it been to start a new life and a course for becoming engineer in motorsport. I decided to come to study in the UK as it is the base of many motorsport companies and teams; Coventry University is one of the best unis in the UK for motorsport, is high on education rankings, has links with motorsport teams and Coventry is a city big enough for not getting bored but small enough to prevent getting overwhelmed.
After 12 hours on planes and 3 more hours on a coach (without counting the endless commuting hours in the airports) I finally arrived with 50 kilos of luggage to my new home, a lovely new building called Godiva Place. After eating a sandwich and unpacking some stuff, I fell in my bed and prepared for the famous Fresher's Week.
Note: I'll skip Fresher's stuff as it's not relevant to this article (also, it wasn't that exciting apart from all the free stuff).
After a week of getting used to the uni, the course started and was time for lectures and learning engineering. The first two weeks were basic stuff like technical drawings, structures of metals and material stuff and design principles; the real stuff started on week 3. We got to design gears in CATIA (professional software used by industry), was quite fulfilling and easier than expected, we got assigned reports on materials properties and started work for designing a transmission device.
But the real stuff just happened, waking up at 7 for getting to the workshop at 9 was worth it, as we stripped and rebuild a Toyota engine. It was the first real engineering experience of the course.
A nice gear designed in CATIA
How the engine thing went
So, after arriving we were asked to put overalls and safety boots, then we got a 1 hour lecture of the basics of four-stroke engine, two-stroke engine and diesel engine. It was amazingly interesting even though I already had some knowledge of these machines.
At 10, we got to get out the beautiful shinny tools and strip the engine part by part, stopping every now and then so our supervisor could explain us the function of certain parts. After an hour, we took almost every part until we got to the crankshaft and pistons, the heart of an internal combustion engine. We took a piston, saw the precision of the way it was manufactured and saw the function of the crank, then, things got real.
Feeling part of a motorsport team
Once we finished taking the components away, we were told to put everything back in place; the twist was that we were going to be timed and there was a time of 12:27 minutes to beat for assembling the engine. After some minutes of discussing the strategy, we started the challenge.
Putting the piston, oil filter and cylinders were the first thing to do, it was crucial to put the cylinder block as fast as possible, despite being the heaviest part and the bolts being the ones that took longer to tighten. Some chains for the crank and the cylinder cover went after, this was pure precision, we needed a cold mind for putting everything accurately giving the fact tons of small parts were involved in assembling this. Camshafts and the chain connecting the camshafts with the crank was the next thing, I got to put the chain correctly while the other guys put the camshafts and make sure nothing was out of place; I need to admit we lost tons of time here as the chain holders were weirdly fixed and was difficult to moving them and precisely tight them again in the right position.
After the internal stuff was in place, we put the side and top covers of the engine; we as well lost some time here as we placed wrong the top cover and took too much time to adjust the bolts. While the top cover was being tighten, the rest of us put the intake and the exhaust to the side, which was easy but we needed the ratchet that was used for the top to tight the exhaust.
Believe me, this was way more overwhelming that how it sounds, felt like if we were at McLaren and we were against the clock to change again Alonso's Honda engine so it could be ready for the race (I know this year they use Renault). Sadly, our losses in time in several stages meant we got an 18 minute time, that's a bloody eternity compared to the 12:27 record. Honestly, we could have done a lot better, so we deserved that time, but I'm really competitive, so I would like to give it a second shot sometime.
A beautiful engine from the inside.
Throwback to China 2018
After we finished, I remembered the Chinese GP when Ricciardo's mechanics needed to rebuild the engine after FP3 for Qualy, and they did. I was amazed at the time, but after assembling a really simple engine in 18 minutes and knowing how extremely complex the F1 engines are, these guys have nothing but all my respect and admiration for being able to pull such an amazing job, rewarded with a race victory.
I can't imagine building a whole F1 engine in just a couple of hours.
Month and a half has passed since I started and I need to admit that the course is beautiful, I have learned a lot regarding design, materials, manufacture process, engineering software and engineering itself. I have enjoyed a lot and things seem to get even more interesting in the next couple of weeks, so expect to learn more about how I become closer to become a Motorsport Engineer.
Any comments regarding the content and suggestions of what would you like to see in the next post just let me know in the comment section, your feedback is always appreciated.
Until next time,
Note: I would have used photos from the actual exercise, but I lost my phone so I don't have that photos now. I promise to use actual work done by me next time.