No Rest For the Studious: The Story of the University of Delaware BHR14 – Part 1
If you've been a longtime reader of MotoIQ, you may remember in 2011 we featured the University of Delaware's Formula SAE car. This was a landmark car for University of Delaware, as it was UD's first FSAE car to finish every event in an SAE competition. In 2012, we featured a coverage piece on the inaugural SAE Lincoln event. However FSAE coverage has been notably absent since then. Most of this is due to me scrambling to finish a degree in Mechanical Engineering and get a post-college job (spoiler alert: I did graduate in 2014 and I did get a job with Hitachi Automotive Systems).
For the 2013-14 year I was elected president of UD's FSAE team and as one of the lead designers and fabricators I became very familiar with this vehicle. But before we present this new vehicle, we should briefly mention the 2012 and 2013 cars, as the lessons learned on them will be important to understanding why certain decisions were made in 2014.
First we have the 2012 car. This was an evolution of the 2011 car, using the same Yamaha YFZ450R engine and modified Honda TRX300 differential. The emphasis was on weight reduction and improved reliability. To save weight the entire chassis was narrowed, lowered, and shortened saving over 10 pounds from 2011. The suspension was updated to reduce stiction and improve geometry (the 2011 car had quite a lot of initial understeer, followed by power-on oversteer). In 2011, the shifter, clutch, and differential all gave the team fits at SAE West. For 2012, the shifter was changed from a cable to a solid linkage, a response to the cable shifter in the 2011 car failing at least once in every single test session. The clutch was changed from a cable actuated foot clutch to a modified hydraulic hand clutch kit.
The differential case was redesigned to prevent leakage (in fact the 2011 diff leaked so badly it was run without oil in the 2011 Enduro to prevent a DQ by the judges), though the diff itself retained the TRX300 guts. Overall, this car weighed 30 pounds less than in 2012 and made slightly more horsepower due to better engine tuning. If you read our Lincoln coverage in 2012, you will remember that this car was scuttled in the Enduro by a freak rain storm that made for a very slick and difficult to read track.
In 2013 UD's engine tuner offered a Suzuki GSX-R600 engine to the team complete with ECU, wiring, intake, and exhaust, as well as custom tuning. While the extra weight of engine and chassis were a concern, the lure of more than doubling our horsepower was tough to pass up. On top of the engine change, a greater push for reliability was made in the design stage. Unfortunately this push for reliability bulked the car from 450 pounds to 580. However, the larger, higher revving engine made an incredible 90 horsepower (thanks to the hard work of local tuning shop Guhl Motorsports)! Thanks to Guhl's mighty work, this was the most powerful N/A SAE car seen in Lincoln.*
On top of that, the 2013 car, while quite a tank, has been UD's most reliable car ever, not only completing the 2013 Lincoln event easily, but also competing in several SCCA autocrosses afterwards with hardly any breakages. In fact, the above was taken at the 2013 Holbert Memorial, just five days after the car returned home from competition in Lincoln. Because of the new engine, and the massive design changes required to make it fit, this was always going to be a development car and it certainly did its job well. It's still going today, even at two years old. This is very impressive considering most SAE cars, especially cars owned by small teams, tend to have the lifespan of a mayfly.