On Friday 9th Oct eight pupils from Forget Fossil, Ballyclare Secondary School’s Formula 24 team, set off to compete in the Greenpower International Final. Forget Fossil are the first ever Ballyclare Secondary School Kitcar team and after an excellent performance at the regional final in May were very excited to have qualified for the International Final at Rockingham Speedway in Northamptonshire, England.
On arrival at Rockingham Speedway on Saturday morning at 7:45am there was already a real buzz and atmosphere around the circuit, even though it was very early in the morning! Forget Fossil immediately went to garage 11 to get their Kitcar. The kitcar had been kindly crated up by WS Denison the previous week and taken to Rockingham by Woodside Haulage. Without their help the team would have had no kitcar to race. After reassembling parts of the car the team went to register and find their paddock/pitt area for the two day competition. Forget Fossil were in paddock 29. They were to share the paddock with two other teams from the USA, one from Huntsville Alabama and one from Boston Massachusetts. The moment they entered the paddock they realised this was a huge step up in standard from the regional final! Beside them in paddock 28 was two teams from Poland, and to our other side was a team from Berkamstead School, Hertfordshire. When the Huntsville Alabama team tell you that NASA help develop their car you know you might be slightly out of your league.
At 8:30am the car had to go through its MOT, just like a normal car would. The scrutiniser was very thorough, checking that Forget Fossil had manufactured everything on the car to the correct tolerances and within the regulations of the competition. After a nervous ten minutes the car was given a pink sticker to signify its passing of the test. The team then had an opportunity to have a look at some of the other cars they would be competing against over the two days. We were one of the very few first time teams at the event and it was obvious the majority had been there before. The standard of shell and chassis design was phenomenal. The scope of electronics within the other cars was way beyond what Forget Fossil had expected. Nevertheless the first practise session was beginning at 9:30am and the pupils were raring to go.
The first practise session brought back some bad memories of our initial tests of the car. The back axle moved slightly and therefore the chain had come off the sprockets. In the build-up to the final the team had drilled holes for locating the axle grub screws to stop this problem but they quickly realised, at Rockingham, it was the grub screw vibrating loose that was the problem. So the team pitted and brought the car back into the paddock were they removed the grub screws from the back axle and put them back on with Thread Lock in an attempt to keep them in place. Just in case they didn’t stay in place the team decided they would Pitt every four laps. This was going to reduce the number of laps we would be able to complete but it meant not having to waste time putting the chain back on which would be more time consuming.
As the cars lined up for the start the difference between the regional and now was very clear, with 12 cars competing in NI and 38 racing in Rockingham. The Forget Fossil team were apprehensive and excited for the first race. Crawford Ewing drove the car during the first few laps and Kyle Barr took over after four. The Pitt crew checked all grub screws were tight and the chain was still in line during each Pitt stop as well as assiting in the driver changeover, it’s not easy to get in and out of a small kitcar. At the regional the car averaged 21kph but here it was only reaching 15.6kph. The drivers put this down to the slight but very long incline on the last half of the track which was 1.47 miles long. In the end the car drove for 73 minutes and managed a distance of 19.1km. This put us in 34th place. Although we weren’t near achieving a podium position the pupils all enjoyed the racing experience.
The afternoon was the F24+ race. The cars in this race were very impressive hitting speeds of up to 40kph, using the same motor and batteries as we had. It definitely inspired Forget Fossil and showed them what was possible with the right engineering. Getting to see the engineering Graduates from Land Rover Jaguar and Cummings compete was fantastic. Some of the F24+ teams had live transponders to feed information back to the Pitt crews to analyse their cars performance. Our pupils were so impressed by the technology these teams had in their cars.
Before the team left for the evening there was another practise session when we gave the whole team the opportunity to have a drive round the track in the kitcar. For some of the team this was their first time behind the wheel.
Sunday International Race.
There were 78 competitors in the F24 International Final on the Sunday. It really was a magnificent sight. The paddock area was a hive of activity as teams from across the whole of the Uk got ready for the race. The team were much better prepared for this race, having charged up the batteries from the night before, pumped the wheels to their max PSI and worked out a quicker Pitt stop routine. Thankfully our kitcar managed an extra lap around the track. We finished 72nd.
WHAT AN EXPERIENCE
Although Forget Fossil didn’t finish high up in the field, none of the group will forget the experience of going and competing at Rockingham. The sight of all 78 teams lining up on the race track, the shapes and sizes of the other cars, the camaraderie they had with their own teammates and other teams will stay with them for a very long time. Getting to see the quality and standard of the other schools and what is capable when time, effort and expertise are all utilised to the maximum. Can Forget Fossil Mk2 improve on Forget Fossil Mk1? Of course, now that they have witnessed the standard at the very highest level it will be much easier to know the next step: a lighter chassis, thinner and smaller wheels, a belt drive to replace the existing chain one, a motor speed control unit, a throttle rather than a switch. The possibilities for Forget Fossil MK2 are endless and we at Ballyclare Secondary School are looking forward to the next year and the challenge that it will bring for the next group of students.