Formula Student Racing Day: A degree course? Master of Motorsport! Lecturer? thyssenkrupp!
Automotive-sector | Career at thyssenkrupp | Engineering | Many young engineering students dream of building their own racing car. Formula Student makes this dream come true. But if these university racing teams are to mix it with the crème de la crème at international level, it’s crucial they have strong partners. At Racing Day in Austria, the automotive professionals from thyssenkrupp support the teams they sponsor not only by helping with the design of their high-tech racers but also in matters of business expertise. Without pressure, but with lots of automotive experience. And a great opportunity for a perfect start to their career.
It’s a Friday morning in Röthis, in Austria’s westernmost federal state Vorarlberg. Just a few kilometers from the Liechtenstein and Swiss borders, six racing teams are preparing for the start of the new season. A dress rehearsal – on the hottest day of the year. With temperatures at around 95°F, Jodok Hämmerle and his teammates from TU Graz Racing are busy working on their black racing car. Time is of the essence. But despite that, the young engineer takes a short break to give us a progress report: “We’ve just discovered a small bump on the track. So we need to make some adjustments so the front wing doesn’t snap off.”
The engineers, number crunchers, and racing drivers at the scene are not professionals but highly motivated students. Jodok is one of them. Like his teammates, he’s working on his degree at Graz University of Technology. Today, thyssenkrupp has invited him and 64 other students from Bern, Konstanz, Zurich, Ravensburg, Innsbruck, and Graz to thyssenkrupp Racing Day.
thyssenkrupp Racing Day: full speed ahead before the start of the season – minus the rivalry
At thyssenkrupp Racing Day, the technology group’s automotive experts give up-and-coming motorsport talent in Formula Student the chance to exchange ideas, ask experienced experts for feedback, and push their cars to the limit under real racing conditions. What makes this so special is the fact that everything to do with each car – from planning to the design of the running gear, the chassis, and the electronics – is developed by the students themselves.
“Many of them keep working right to the last minute to get their car on the road while with us. Everyone is super passionate about motorsport and likes to tinker. Of course, this trait fits perfectly with our automotive business. That’s why we bring both sides together at Racing Day,” explains Pedro Malta de Jesus Veiga, Head of Recruiting at thyssenkrupp’s steering specialists Presta. “We give them the opportunity to test their cars, expand their knowledge, and further improve themselves – hand in hand with the other teams,” adds Claudia Burtscher, HR Specialist for University Marketing & Employer Branding at Presta. Rivalry? Not here.
thyssenkrupp meets Formula Student: learning from each other, progressing together
Instead, the main focus is on communicating and exchanging data and know-how with other universities. This doesn’t just apply to young teams such as Campus Tirol Motorsport, but also to established representatives such as the Akademischer Motorsportverein Zürich (Academic Motorsport Club Zurich), or AMZ Racing for short. With their electric car, the team from ETH Zurich currently ranks No. 1 worldwide in the Formula Student classification. “For us Racing Day is a great opportunity to find out where we stand – and how other teams go about solving the same problems we have,” says Andreas Horat, who has been with AMZ for three years. Talking with the experts from thyssenkrupp is just as important: “They ask critical questions about our car, keeping us on our toes and ensuring that we prepare ourselves best we can for the season. What’s more, thyssenkrupp is an important technology and manufacturing partner for us, with whom we can actually realize designs we could not realize with other companies.”
The unconventional approach of these young engineers is also worth its weight in gold to thyssenkrupp itself, says Pedro Malta de Jesus Veiga: “Their unexpected questions repeatedly open up new perspectives and force us to question our own thinking and challenge knowledge previously learned. We benefit directly from this.”
Formula Student project: the fascination of building your own racing car
Selina Lorinser is one of six women in the Formula Student Team Weingarten of Ravensburg-Weingarten University of Applied Sciences. Her area of responsibility is team organization and the business plan – because besides the cars’ race performance, the business side of things is also an integral part of the points system applied in Formula Student. Business studies student Selina’s fascination with self-constructed race cars is massive: “In the beginning, you only see the car on the computer in CAD. Then everything slowly comes together – it’s really crazy. And everyone in the team plays their part.”
The incredible feeling of building your own racing car immediately appealed to Andreas of AMZ Racing, too: “It’s a genuinely tangible product – and not just an abstract problem you have to solve. We have a lot of freedom to try things out and learn new things. In theory, anything is possible – in practice, it’s completely different.” It’s precisely this difference that presents AMZ’s technical director with a challenge this afternoon: “We still have a few problems with our new powertrain. But I’m confident that we’ll still get to drive today.” And even if the car does come to a standstill a few more times, in the end, the favorite, AMZ Racing, manages to get its racing car round the circuit in Röthis.
Speaking of driving, how do you actually get to become a driver of one of these 100 km/h Formula Student cars? Marc Sauter is No. 1 driver of the Bodensee Racing Team of Konstanz University of Applied Sciences (HTWG). It was the mech eng student’s talent on the cart track, in particular, that helped launch him into the cockpit – by no means an unusual “aptitude test” in Formula Student. “We weren’t able to get the car on the track this morning, but then things came together after the design contest. We’re satisfied with how things went,” said Sauter, summing up after a few laps of the track. “With outside temperatures as high as they are, it’s a bit unpleasant for us drivers, of course. But it’s okay as long as we’ve got a sunshade and enough water. And once you’re on the track, you don’t care about the weather anyway.”
Motorsport veterans from Formula 1 and Formula Student share their many years of expertise
Campus Tirol Motorsport isn’t quite as lucky: As the battery of their electric vehicle frequently causes problems, they already knew the day before that they were likely to remain stuck in the pits on Racing Day. The fact that the team nevertheless refuses to miss out and makes the most of the day is not least due to the valuable feedback available from the experienced automotive experts.
One of them is Carlo Miano – once a Formula 1 engineer at Ferrari and a key enabler of Michael Schumacher’s later successes, now a vehicle dynamics expert at thyssenkrupp. At Racing Day, he carefully examines the design of the vehicles and offers professional tips. The students often remind him of himself: “Their way of approaching challenges and their willingness to sometimes do crazy things takes me back to my own early days. They are all truly passionate motorsport fans and love developing their cars bit by bit. Formula Student is the perfect place for them. Of course, passion isn’t everything – but it does drive you to learn something new every day. And that’s the only way to be if you’re going to achieve great things.”
What Carlo Miano is for “engineering design,” Benjamin Enders is for “business planning.” The thyssenkrupp expert himself used to be active in Formula Student as “Team Leader Statics” – in other words, for those areas that have to do with business planning. At Racing Day, Benjamin is responsible for evaluating and rating the entrepreneurship of the teams. For him, the most important thing is the degree of creativity demonstrated – but also how realistic the plan is. His verdict is positive: “All teams have taken their pitch very seriously. The quality level was very high, including from those teams who were facing this challenge for the first time. They made full use of this opportunity to run through their business presentations before the season kicks off and to take feedback on board.”
Racing Day: seeking out fresh talent for the future
When it comes to looking for qualified employees, events like Racing Day are becoming increasingly important, says Pedro Malta de Jesus Veiga. “A simple job advertisement is no longer enough to attract young talent to thyssenkrupp. Although events like today’s involve costs and additional work, I am totally convinced that this commitment will pay off in the long term. A day such as this one is not easily forgotten by participants – and they tell their fellow students about it, too. This has a lasting, positive effect on our search for talent.”
Just how well the event has been received by the racing teams is demonstrated not only by the fact that two participants have already submitted a job application to thyssenkrupp Presta shortly after Racing Day, but also by the fact that the students were, for the second year running, ready to go that extra mile together with thyssenkrupp despite being in the middle of their exams. “We learned an incredible amount at the first Racing Day,” says Presta’s Claudia Burtscher. “So this year we really have reached a completely different level. If the participants then go home with a good feeling, we are very happy.”
First time taking part, first victory: Team Weingarten delivers a perfect performance
Even if the actual day of the event is all about interacting and communicating with one another rather than benchmarking, thyssenkrupp’s Racing Day doesn’t end without an official award ceremony. Celebrating with a good spread and against a beautiful alpine backdrop, Pedro Malta de Jesus Veiga presented the top three teams. While Bodensee Racing won bronze and TU Graz Racing took silver, top spot proved to be a real surprise. The Racing Day newcomers from Team Weingarten secured overall victory – with an incredible 500 out of 500 points!
Of course, like their competitors, the champions from Ravensburg are fully aware of the fact that the actual racing season is only just about to begin. Thanks to the dress rehearsal at thyssenkrupp, the teams are well prepared for the coming challenges they will face in Formula Student. It’s now time to step on the gas and compete for overall victory!