ZF Race Camp Fine-tune, then full throttle!

The ZF Race Camp was established in 2007: Tinker, test – and put your foot down. For two days, more than 200 students slaved over their home-made racing cars at ZF Race Camp. This year, the event was held on the site of the Friedrichshafen Exhibition Center. As ever, the atmosphere was a mixture of concentrated work in the pit lane and relaxed socializing elsewhere. By the end of the Camp, everybody who took part agreed it had been a great success.

The course was marked out by blue and green pylons. The long straight was fitted with light barriers at both ends for the acceleration test, which is all about finding out just how fast each team’s car (or cars) can accelerate. The answer is, 0 to 100 km/h (65 mph) in around 3.5 seconds. Once pedal was pressed to metal, cars with internal combustion (IC) engines emitted the usual snarl – whereas their electric cousins were almost noiseless, making their astonishing acceleration all the more impressive. In this particular discipline, e-mobiles definitely came out in front.

For the second year in a row, more of the teams at ZF Race Camp brought electric racing cars than gas-powered models. The total number of teams was 21, with 25 cars between them. ZF has been organizing the two-day preparatory event for Formula Student teams for the last seven years. It’s the perfect venue for students to test their vehicles and have them checked out by ZF engineers from a wide variety of specialist disciplines.

See the accompanying video for impressions of ZF Race Camp 2014 and reactions by some of those who took part

“It’s a great opportunity to fine-tune vehicles before the Silverstone and Hockenheim races,” explains Martin Frick, Head of Employer Branding and Media at ZF – an opportunity which teams from all over Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland are making the most of.

In Exhibition Hall A2, some teams have up to 20 members working on their vehicles – like Team “Ecurie Aix” from Aachen Technical University (RWTH Aachen), currently optimizing their battery mountings. Other teams are working on engines or suspension. “The event is important for us, because we gain practical experience and engineering insights,” says Marius Reiter from “Ecurie Aix”. His team-mate Bastian Lampe adds that ZF Race Camp is also a valuable team-building exercise. For many of the teams here, it’s the first time they’ve worked at full strength. So it’s important that every move is discussed and everybody knows what to do.

Speaking of manpower: ZF Race Camp is by no means exclusively masculine – all the teams have women in their ranks. Like Annemarie König, for example, the “TUfast” team member responsible for gearbox and clutch (TUfast is the race team from the Technical University of Munich). That’s for their gas-powered car, mind you, because the Munich team – like the Karlsruhe team – have brought two cars along: one racing car with an IC engine, the other with an electric motor. This year, according to König, the Munich TU team are taking a very different approach to their conventionally powered car – it’s constructed from lightweight materials and the engine only has one cylinder. “Things get serious here at Race Camp! You’ve got to make sure you can cope with the stress. Plus we really want to show our sponsors that we’ve got a great project,” explains König.

Philipp Schmitt from Team FS Weingarten is the first to hurtle past the pylons on the test track. That’s because his team is one of the first to pass the scrutineering and braking tests – two major hurdles teams must overcome before they’re even allowed to drive onto the race track.

During scrutineering, the teams present their vehicles to ZF engineers, who check whether the cars comply with all the specifications and also give tips on things that need further improvement. The braking test is, of course, all about safety – making sure the brakes can bring the car to a standstill fast enough. “These testing facilities are really important for us; we have to find out how well the system works, and it’s useful to be able to familiarize ourselves with the whole race process,” explains Schmitt. His team are still working out a few minor problems of excess heat in the exhaust system. The ZF engineers have also recommended another solution for routing the fuel lines.

A passion for technology transcends generations

The Formula Student and ZF Race Camp events are developing their own back-stories, as demonstrated by Alex van Koppen and his son Jörgen. Back in 2001, Alex von Koppen – from Delft in the Netherlands – took part in Formula Student for the first time, as a team adviser. For the group photo, he put his son – just ten years old at the time – in the cockpit of the team’s racing car. Today, 13 years on, Alex von Koppen still assists the team – but this time his son Jörgen is one of the engineers. He’s studying Mechanical Engineering in Delft. “My father inspired me. He used to take me to races when I was very young. Taking part in Formula Student is very time-consuming, but then again, I’ve learned so much this year,” smiles Jörgen van Koppen. His sentiments are shared by many of the students who take part in Formula Student and ZF Race Camp. Although they all compete fiercely while they’re racing, they’re all united by their passion for technology.

Find out more about ZF Race Camp here.

Alex van Koppen and his son Jörgen both belong to Team DUT Racing Delft.

Further related articles