Updated: Dec 4, 2020
It was a cold morning in late November as I stepped out into the biting cold after leaving my accommodation. Car keys in one hand, camera in the other - I jogged out to my parked Kia - another adventure was about to begin....
After a surprisingly quiet and uneventful half-hour sprint down the M54, I had arrived: The Telford Campus.
Usually this campus would be bustling with students and staff - but during a pandemic? It was all but empty.
There were only a couple of students working on the cars in the workshop with a half a dozen more dotted throughout the remainder of the building.
At first glance, from the outside, it may have looked like just another ordinary university building, but inside was a well-kept secret that everyone was bursting to tell me about and one I was itching to know about:
University Of Wolverhampton Racing (UWR)
After a bit of exploration to find a way into the building, (main entrance was closed due to COVID) I eventually found the workshop and was taken a little aback. The workshop was huge!
In the front "foyer" (workshop) area, there was a "Bat-Cave" looking racing simulator (I'll come on to), a central "island" of parts neatly positioned as well as a Formula 3 (cup) car on jacks with no engine cover being worked on by students and countless draws, toolboxes and shelves.
Why didn't you enroll into the University's Engineering Course?
I have dyspraxia, which affects my fine motor-skills/coordination. It's because of this that I thought that dealing with very "fiddly" and mechanical parts might not be quite my forte.
Despite this, I still found a way to get involved in not only motorsport - but the University's Motorsport Team too. I truly believe that that is the most important part of motorsport - inclusivity.
Getting behind the wheel may be an impossibility for most, but behind the scenes - there are hundreds and thousands of individuals, in all fields, working endlessly and tirelessly to ensure that not only their own team is flawless and smooth - but the broadcast (be that a blog, video or broadcast) is also without error.
There's always a place for you, no matter your strengths, weaknesses and talents - Motorsport always has a place for you.
The Tour Begins
After a young man approached me and greeted me, Shane too appeared, and just like that, the tour begun.
As of 2020, the University Of Wolverhampton Racing (UWR) team runs 4 full-time cars: - Formula Student (strictly for University students only) - Formula 3 Cup (the series I saw at Donington Park supporting the GT Cup) - Formula Renault 2.0 -Morgan Plus 4 Babydoll and an ARV6 (not present due to being returned to Morgan) - these Morgans would race in the AR Motorsport Morgan Challenge Series
(Click on images for a larger view)
From here, we'd leave the foyer and head to the meeting room - where myself, Shane Kelly, Terry Gibson and Matthew Fenton all (virtually) met for the first time to discuss this visit.
Along the way, I'd be introduced to UWR's pleasantly full trophy cabinet and an "exploded" Formula One (open wheel) car art piece.
Following this, we'd turn a corner and I'd discover where the real "magic" happens.
In each room, there were machines I had never seen before - and some that looked straight out of NASA!
Top Left: There was one other machine like this in the room - but essentially you could make whatever you pleased out of metal and plastic.
The image in the top-middle was an exhaust trim from a Pagani Huayra (made by student Daniel Bird who went on to design a second design for a Pagani Zonda.)
The "Apollo/NASA/SpaceX-looking" machine was just as exciting as it looks.
I'm no expert, but from what I've been told, it was like a Hadron Collider but for Carbon Fibre (material used for racing cars). This took microscopic elements/chemicals and collided them together to form materials that could be used in the production of car parts/materials.
The bottom left image was taken at the back of the room of the above three and (laser)cuts materials such as metal and carbon fibre.
The last stop before heading upstairs was the "build" room - where the 2021 Formula Student car was in its earliest stages of being built for the coming season
The bottom right (image) is a smaller version of the exploded Formula One car seen earlier in the tour.
Formula Student is a competition between Universities/academies to see who can build "the best" single-seater racing cars to some incredibly strict regulations.
Each car is hand-built from scratch (including welding) by the students at the universities taking part.
Industry experts would judge each of these cars individually based on build quality (static test) as well as a dynamic "on-track test" and at the end of the day decide an on an overall winner
The format of the static test would be a business presentation - the students also being judged upon this. Within this presentation, they'd be judged upon:
Technical and Safety Scrutineering
Brake and Noise Test
Whilst on track they'd be tested on:
Skid Pad (Figure of 8)
Students are given as least as possible, meaning they have to weld, attach the engine and mechanical parts like wheels and the gearbox etc.
The Rooms Upstairs
Continuing on with the tour, we then headed upstairs where we were greeted by a balcony with a view
The next section of the tour went slightly above my head due to being rather complicated and technical. This section was about making materials/concepts of items.
Top Left: Some of the cool things that previous students have made during their time at Wolverhampton. One of the items I was showed was some chainmail, however it didn't feel metallic, heavy or "natural".
Top Middle: An interesting machine in which powder would be put in the "machine" before being shaken to form the item you wish
Following this, we'd head back down a (rather dark) staircase which led to a corridor with a few more rooms.
In the centre of the next room we went to was a miniature model of an airplane with a mini wind-tunnel attached to it (top right) In front of this (just out of shot) was a joystick that you could essentially "fly" the plane with - this teaching aerodynamics and what happens if you increased joystick inputs
and wind-speed. I didn't enquire about the device on the bottom left.
Also in this room was a hose and a rather large trough for testing water dynamics.
Nearing the end of the tour, we visited the room where I took the picture that's bottom right - there was faint whiff in this room.
This smell came from a glass tank with some residue in the bottom (pictured).
This too used a laser and as far as I know the smelly residue either rises/falls to reveal the item made/sculpt around it.
Next we visited the engine room.
The Engine Room
The engine room would be where engineering students would start their studies, simply testing dyno and settings on road car engines like the 1.9 SDI Volkswagen one they had (top, middle)
A Stunning End To A Fun Tour
The tour concluded where it had started an hour (or more) ago - in the foyer/workshop at the front of the building. Out of the corner of my eye, I once again spied the "batcave" simulator and observing that it ran the iRacing Software (me being used to this software), I asked if I could have a go...and surprisingly I was!
Compared to my little G920 at home having multiple curved screens was a heck-load more immersive and bought a massive smile to my face.
In between spins (no wall taps though!) I managed to save a 1:03' lap-time - iRacing hasn't actually logged a lap-time - so it'll be very interesting to compare the two - my home rig (I've raced in since Dec' 2019) VS an incredibly expensive rig and setup.
UWRacing even got their own livery for iRacing which I'm planning to use for Week 13 - should I get access/the link to it.
Shane Kelly showing me how it's done hounding a Formula 3 around Donington Park
A Few Thank Yous
This was not a simple "turn up and hope they do something with me" sort of trip - this took a little bit of planning - so I have quite a few people I must thank.
Firstly, obviously, my parents for helping me with helping me get into the University of Wolverhampton - I genuinely could not have done it without you and now my dreams are coming true because of all the help you have given for the past dozen or so years.
Next I'd like to thank Lynn Butler, my lecturer/teacher/professor for getting me and Terry into contact, I greatly appreciate it and it's REALLY helped get "this ball" rolling.
I'd also like to thank Terry for inviting me for not only a (virtual) meeting but down to the Telford Campus as well - it was incredibly kind of you - and a really, really fun day out.
Thanks also to Shane and Matthew who also were present on the tour - Matthew (I believe) was a very good tour-guide and was very informative!
Finally - I'd like to thank the sponsors of UWRacing - simply put - without you there'd be no University Of Wolverhampton Racing and this would not only directly affect those on the course - but people like myself who are thoroughly invested and love motorsport and are showing that there's many different ways into motorsport.
Working with UWRacing would be a dream come true - and by sponsoring them, you're helping not only my - but potentially hundreds - if not thousands of current and future students' dreams come true.
There's currently a Wolverhampton alumni working in Formula One - and with your continued support, you can help others reach this simply unbelievable achievement too,
On behalf of The University Of Wolverhampton Racing (UWRacing) Team and myself Thank You.