Progression Ladder focus: 2011 FSAE B11 (UC Berkeley)
The Formula SAE is an international motorsport competition based around a simple concept: each student team must build the ultimate autocross car for the non-professional week-end racer. Each car is then evaluated in a number of events, ranging from endurance racing to economy runs, and awarded a maximum of 1,000 total points. For example, 300 points are awarded for the endurance event, 150 for the autocross event, 150 for the design contest, etc. This, together with not very restrictive regulations, promotes out-of-the-box thinking as well as an understanding of all the different things that make a good racing team. Having a marketing and sponsorship strategy is important as well, and it’s thanks to this part that Simraceway became in 2011 official sponsor of the Formula SAE team of the University of California - Berkeley.
This very year, the team came up with the ‘Vader’ B11, using a Suzuki GSRX-R600 four pot engine pushing 85bhp to move the weird-looking, 506-lbs car.
As it’s meant to be raced on cramped autocross tracks, it doesn’t need high max speed, so the 6-speed gearbox is really very short, reaching a maximum of around 60mph with default settings. But it does make it a perfect fit for a kart track. And I must say it’s a lot of fun there.
It doesn’t have much grip, probably less than the SRW kart, but it’s all the more fun. If you drive it like a normal car, the front-end will push really wide mid-corner, and you’ll end up going really slowly. What you need to do is use the rearward brake bias to make the rear-end step out on corner entry, and then tuck the nose towards the exit. If you do that correctly, you’ll be able to step on the throttle sooner. But perhaps more importantly, you’ll smile from start to finish.
The car being very light, it isn’t hard to catch the back when it does move a bit too much under braking, everything being progressive and predictable. It’ll soon become a game to see how much angle you can carry into the corner. So even if it won’t powerslide, you can drift it on the brakes all day long.
I tried it on regular tracks as well, and it isn’t any less fun: the car’s global balance and lack of inertia will make up for the straights where you’ll have to be patient. I must say that spending nearly all Watkins Glen redlining in 6th gear wasn’t the brightest driving experience I’ve had, but it really is of small relevance. Instead, I do recommend some smaller tracks, like Brands Hatch Indy, or Mid-Ohio. It will even work nicely at Laguna Seca!
I haven’t had the opportunity to race it yet, but I can say with confidence that races in this will be huge fun. The only real negative thing to this car is that it had me regretting I wasn’t part of the Formula SAE competition…
I know some UC Berkeley students are still lurking around on Simraceway, so if you read this: thumbs up to you, you gave us a funny little thing!
Here is the link to the Test Drive Tuesday Leaderboards: https://goo.gl/ATr6mF