Formula Motorsports: Accelerating Race Cars through Simulation

UWashington Formula Motorsports is a student-organized team that competes in Formula SAE. We design, build and test two small, formula-style race cars for the competition: one combustion and one electric. Each year we compete nationally and internationally at Formula Student Lincoln and Formula Student Germany. Everything our club produces is done entirely in-house. We produce our own designs, perform our own machining, and manufacture our own carbon fiber parts. Through the entire design process, UWashington Formula Motorsports strives to validate design decisions with sound engineering methods, and the simulations we run using ANSYS make this possible.

SAE requires competing cars to be designed for the weekend autocross racer. Teams are directed to build a car that has excellent handling, braking and acceleration capabilities. At competitions, Formula SAE cars must have the durability to handle up to 13 miles of continuous driving, but any extra strength added to increase durability increases the weight, which leads to lost points in acceleration, skid-pad and autocross events.

The analytical features of ANSYS simulations allow our team to optimize every component of our car. Every part we build needs to be strong enough to handle the most extreme load cases that our car experiences. Autocrosses are often held on worn and uneven pavement, and a bump can cause the whole car to experience up to three times the force of gravity. This is crucial for our car’s suspension, which has to bear the whole force of the car in these conditions. ANSYS Structural enables our team to test and refine each component so that it meets the demands of the competition without carrying excessive weight.

UWashington Formula Motorsports ansys simulation

Suspension Superbracket under load

In addition to optimizing structural elements, ANSYS allowed us to refine the aerodynamics package of our car, which is a critical component of our success. The goal of our aerodynamics package is to produce maximum downforce, which improves our car’s ability to corner, brake and even accelerate. ANSYS Fluent lets us optimize our aerodynamics package by allowing us to run 2-D simulations on wing profiles along with 3-D full car simulations. The results of these simulations provide valuable information on the interplay between different aerodynamic parts. Recently, our team used the ANSYS Fluent simulations to decide the relative placement of the radiator duct in relation to the car’s side wings. Using ANSYS solutions, we were able to run multiple simulations with different radiator positions, and quantify the relative benefit through downforce values.

UWashington Formula Motorsports using ansys simulation

Full car CFD simulation under cornering

ANSYS simulations guide us in every step of our design process, from initial concept selection to competition. Use of this software has undoubtedly contributed to our team’s success. This past year, we placed second overall in the FSAE Lincoln combustion competition, and third in the design competition. In Germany, we placed fourth overall in the design competition. To know more about our team and support us, please visit our website, find us on Facebook and Twitter, or check out our photo stream.

One thought on “Formula Motorsports: Accelerating Race Cars through Simulation

Comments are closed.