The Shell Eco-marathon Challenger Event will take place at the Circuit International de Karting in Le Mans, France, May 13-15.
About 15 to 60 teams from different nations will be given the chance to try out their new vehicles. Cars drive 10 laps around the circuit at a set speed, within 33 minutes. Organisers calculate their energy efficiency and determine what their consumption in km/l is.
This race will function as a test for our brand new Blue Bolt, so we can improve it for London next year!
To find out more about how the race went go to Le Mans 2016. There you will find personal stories, which were given by some of the students.
So, we finally went to Le Mans! Some of our engineers were so kind to put the whole experience into words, just for you! Enjoy!
Hasko Schortinghuis - Race Engineer
Thursday: Sooo… off to LeMans!
Thursday morning 12 May we grouped with 9 (the others drove the night before ) in the morning at school and took off to Le Mans. During the trip it grew on us that we were going to a very special event. We had a massive hick-up at Paris which led to some funny situations (e.g. Riemer and no place to stop). After Paris, Le Mans was reached quickly and we settled down at the KFC to refill our mood and stomachs. The other group that went the night before already made camp Blue Racing at the campsite so that was a very relaxing and nice welcome.
Friday: Test day! (they say…)
Friday there was time to test the car on the track. However before we could actually race the car, we needed to get through technical inspection. Shell is very tight about what is allowed and what isn’t when it comes to safety. Throughout the day we were finishing the last things on the car and while we wanted to get as soon as possible through technical inspection, it took a long time to get the car ready for tech inspection. The idea was to hit tech inspection quickly, come back with a list full of stuff, work on it and go again, like a trial and error process. Since there is a limited amount of space around the car we came into a situation where not everyone could work on the car. And so, we still didn’t know if tech inspection was going to be a success. Those were a few stressful hours since as we thought, tech inspection would close at 5 p.m (at 4:15 p.m. it turned out we would have untill 6 p.m. and had next day also for tech inspection so that news came as a big relief). 30 Minutes before tech inspection closed on Friday we made it into the queue and with 5 minutes left on the clock we were inside. Since there wasn’t enough time Friday to finish the inspection we were asked to return Saturday morning, but the first impressions from Shell were good and there was no reason for us to worry. Driven not a single inch Friday we had the most efficient test day ever. Also Friday night was a cold night and the use of alcohol wasn’t fixing it, talking about bummers…
Saturday: Did that actually happen?
Saturday morning the team made an early check in at Park Fermé. As team we hit tech inspection and guess what, we failed. Not that special though, some specifications about the battery weren’t clear and after a short call to the manufacturer from the battery we went for another attempt. This time we made it and we were ready to shine!
First attempt was slow but steady; Bob, Noah and I were sitting on the pitbox and had live communication with the driver to tell her if she had to speed up of slow down. This was a tremendous amount of fun. Sadly the skype connection with the driver wasn’t bulletproof so there were people on the pit wall with signs just in case we lost talking ability with the driver. Your improvise skills are also being tested, which is great. Back to the first attempt, the car was out there on track and while we on the pitbox had everything perfect with the live-timings Shell told us we were 3 minutes to slow in the end. Shell was right and we were wrong. Such a shame since we threw the first attempt away but we still had plenty of time left in the session to set a new result. Turned out to be the battery was way too low for another drive, so far Saturday. The positive side was that the car held up nicely and we were all stunned by the fact it drove a race distance (13.380 km) without blowing its fuses or falling apart.
The weather was really cold (still) and after the day of working on track we went out to get a stoop or at least some blankets. Since the amount of ‘Je ne parlé pas Français’ was fairly high between the four of us, hunting a stoop in France it’s a miracle we ended up in a store that sold stoop’s, if it wasn’t almost midsummer because which dumbass would need a stoop midsummer. Blankets were the way to go.
Sunday: Shell isn’t always right
Sunday was the last day we could set a result, so Saturday night we discussed our tactics. Marieke would be the driver on the first attempt. After the first attempt, we had a break of 2 hours and gave it another shot with full batteries, while Esmé took place behind the wheel. Bob, Noah and I were still sitting on the pitbox and all the others were down, standing along the pitwall. In this way we had the least amount of deflection and we wouldn’t fail the live-timings again, something we wouldn’t be able to afford. Marieke drove really nice and we came in with 3 minutes and 30 seconds left on the clock. Way too quick, but at least we had a valid result. Next thing we know is, Shell comes to us and say we drove 1 lap lesser than needed for a valid result. However, we on the pitbox knew we did it right so we started to calculate times and double checked every other info we had, but we came to the conclusion that Shell was wrong. What saved our asses though, is that there was a GoPro mounted on the car so we could watch the laps we drove. With all the info from our side, we went to Shell and told them they probably made a mistake and they found out the transponder didn’t bleep the first time which meant we had a valid result! 1 Liter / 538 Kilometer!
The 2nd race went smooth and we hit the finish line with 40 seconds left on the clock. This means we drove much slower the 2nd race and used less energy. The result was 1 Liter / 608 Kilometer!
Everyone went crazy with this result good for a 2nd place and the champagne got popped! The day ended with a drive around ‘circuit de la Sarthe’ (the 24h racetrack) and some talking at the basecamp until the night took over.
Monday: Unplanned weight savings
Monday was the last day in Le Mans. The official Eco Marathon challenge was over and Shell wanted us to be there one day longer so there could be done some testing for them. What we didn’t know, was that it would be by far the greatest day in Le Mans so far.
There would be three races. The races were about testing the ability of the drivers and combined it with speed and fuel economy. Each race, you would get a certain amount of energy and with this energy you would be able to reach the finish in time. However, the faster the car goes, the more energy it uses so when you are flat out all the time, you run out of energy before reaching the finish line. Since it was a real race it there were real opponents, the first one to cross the finish after five laps wins. The opponents struggled to find the best speed/fuel economy ratio and this gave some interesting scenario’s.
The first race, we won! By an eight of a second lead. No one really figured out yet how fast you had to drive and no one wanted to run out of juice, so we could take the win with us there.
The second race was much closer, we battled with two others until the very last lap. Our guys that could see how much energy everyone had left (Shell went fancy and livestreamed the battery data on a screen from all the teams ) told us one of them wouldn’t make it to the finish line, he came to a stop 50 meters short. The other car had a lot of energy left and won, since they went flat out last lap. Our hopes were set on a 2nd place, but our energy was running low as well. 30 Meters before the finish, we ran out of juice, but by keeping momentum we made it 5 meters over the finish line. The team went crazy, since everyone had taken their own role and we made it as a team across the line, a real achievement!
The third race was even more crazy. One of the two opponents of the second race, had a failure and wasn’t a threat. The other however, gave us a real fight and we were switching first and second places all the time. Sadly, with 300 meters to go, our door said bye to the rest of the car. We had to stop and put the door back in, what gave us a 3rd result.
After all, the global result was a first place! We left Le Mans extremely satisfied, knowing we had created a car in one year that was capable of winning or at least going along with the best out there on track.
I really enjoyed the weekend and the project overall. I hope that I can be part of a race team again in the future, because it was a stunning experience. There can still be improved a lot and I will be determined to discover those roads.
Marieke van de Pol - Driver
Last week, we went to Le Mans, finally! We drove with nine team members to Le Mans, where the rest was waiting for us. The next day, we went to our paddock to settle in and finish some small things. Despite some setbacks and bad communication, we went to the technical inspection half an hour before closing. Because of the time, we couldn’t go through all of it, but we passed the critical one so we knew that we could pass all of it. We went back to the camping side, where a large pot of pasta was waiting for us.
The next day, we went first by the technical inspection. They only wanted some more information about the electronics, so we contacted the firm in Holland. After that, we got the sticker for technical inspection.
After a break we could drive our first ride. It was very exciting, because it would be the first time that the car would drive such a long distance, but it went very well. We came in three minutes too slow and the battery wasn’t enough loaded to drive a second time so we had to wait for the next day.
On Sunday, it was my turn to try to drop a time. It was my first time to drive our own built car, so I was very excited. The first lap, I drove slow to get used to the car. The second lap I drove faster, because I wanted to finish before the 33 minutes. After some mistakes by Shell, we got a correct race. So we set our first time. The second drive that day, was Esmé’s. She fine-tuned the economical driving. We achieved our goal, so we were all very proud and happy. And we could uncork the champagne.
Monday, we stayed for a special test for Shell. Every car received a certain amount of energy from Shell. We all had to drive five laps and the first car who passed the finish line wins. So it could happen that the car runs out of energy in the middle of the lap. The first race, I drove at high speed (40 km/h) and we won easily. The second race was more exciting, because there were two more cars on top. One went out of energy in the last lap, so I could pass it. I also went out of energy just before the finish line, so my car was decelerating. I had to press the emergency stop and we drove at a snail’s pace over the finish line. We became second. The third race, we decided to drive very slowly, so we wouldn’t spill a lot of energy. During the last lap, there was enough energy left to drive high speed and I passed the first car. In one of the last turns, my door swung open, so I had to stop and put it back. The first and second car passed me, so I became third. If you add up all scores from the three races, we still became first in the race! It was so much fun to drive these races, because it looks and feels a lot more like karting, only in your own built car. I enjoyed it very much and I will do it again!