Science and Technology Facilities Council
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Hartree Centre supports engineering students' race to Formula One

Researchers at STFC’s Hartree Centre are supporting a pioneering project led by the University of Bolton to prepare a new generation of engineers for the exciting world of Formula One racing.

Engineering students at the University of Bolton’s National Centre of Motorsport Engineering (NCME) have been preparing a 1981 Ensign N180B Formula One car to race again, which will be driven by three-time grand prix winner, Johnny Herbert.  Operated and owned by former Formula 1 manager Bob Fernley, who has donated the car to the project, the Ensign F1 car last raced in the early 1980s, taking sixth place at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1986.  

Project Ensign is the first of its kind and follows a call from motor racing star Lewis Hamilton for more diversity in this elite sport, to open up opportunities and inspire a new generation of engineering minds in students from all backgrounds. Forty seven of the 196 students in this project are from a BAME background.

As part of the project, in addition to installing a powerful V8 racing engine into the racing car, the students needed to digitally scan and create a map of the car's aerodynamic performance, to make comparisons with modern-day racing cars and apply their learnings. In support of this, researchers at the Hartree Centre, based at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory at Sci-Tech Daresbury, have provided the students with access to its powerful supercomputing and visualisation capabilities, to carry out Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) analysis, for the students to correlate against track data, which will enable to optimisation of aerodynamic modelling and performance of the car.

In the motor industry, CFD is a valuable capability in aerodynamic design, and for a Formula One racing car it is critical for accurately simulating wind tunnel tests, track conditions and aerodynamic behaviour.  Highly specialised mathematical CFD modelling algorithms can quickly and accurately simulate the flow of air over and around a car, making it possible to virtually get inside and all around a vehicle to see how it performs.

Michael Gleaves, Deputy Director at STFC’s Hartree Centre, recently said:

“Formula One is such an exciting sport which demands a whole range of important disciplines in engineering and science.  At STFC’s Hartree Centre we are constantly collaborating with UK businesses, using high performance computing to address real life challenges.  This is very much the case for the automotive industry, where it can help us improve and tweak designs faster, saving both time and money. In addition to this, as an organisation, we have a vibrant programme that supports students in STEM subjects across the board, and I’m thrilled that the Hartree Centre has been able to provide support to this highly worthwhile project. I wish these students all the best for this project and their future careers.”

Johnny Herbert has now driven the car at a private test in Anglesey, with a view to competing at the Masters Historic Festival at Brands Hatch at the end of August. The ultimate project goal is to race the car at the 2021 Historic Monaco Grand Prix.

Read more about this project at the University of Bolton website.


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