When the students of IIT-Madras took it upon themselves to design and build a single-seat racing car on a par with international standards, all they had was Rs. 10000, a few second-hand parts and an idea. In nine months, team Raftar – as they called themselves – made the leap from Sardar Patel Road to the iconic Silverstone Circuit in the UK.
Team Raftar is now set to participate in Formula Student (FS), a renowned motorsport competition in Europe for university students worldwide. “We are really excited that the race will be held at the Silverstone Circuit. And to drive our very own car on it is just miles higher than what we aimed at as kids,” said Arun Vinayak, leader of the 40-member team comprising students from Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Design departments of IIT-M.
Their Formula style racing car had to comply with more than 200 regulations set down by Society of Automotive Engineers, an international body which governs automotive standards and regulations. “The prospect of racing a Formula car sounded like a dream to me. But the initial days were very difficult. No one wanted to fund us, there were no tools, no parts, almost nothing except a chassis,” said Rakesh Sridhar who will be behind the steering wheel when the race commences at Silverstone. IIT-Madras’ Raftar will compete with 99 other university teams from around the world in the initial stage.
While building the car, the students were exposed to a real-world engineering problem, as they sought to integrate 100 different components into a compact single-seat Formula-style car. The offbeat project did not enjoy the confidence of the administration initially, even as the students strove to show their mettle. However, the tide turned in their favour when the prototype of the car, put together using second-hand parts, notched up a decent speed.
“The project has been an experience in end-to-end product development,” something that their conventional engineering education doesn’t facilitate, said Arun. They also had to sell their idea as they set out to rope in sponsors .
“The toughest thing was getting the car approved for competition. Also, customs didn’t let many of the parts through. We had to work on that,” said Arun as the team gears up for their debut at Formula Student.
As Rakesh put it: It doesn’t matter now what the outcome of the contest is – Team Raftar has already succeeded in blazing a trail.