2nd February 2019. The day that it was confirmed that we would be competing in Germany AND Austria. The initial mood of jovial celebration was quickly greeted by a tense nervousness about the daunting yet exciting path that lay ahead of us. HeVonen had a new powertrain. And we had a burning desire to make India proud. We knew we had to give everything. And more.
Our preparations began with the thankless process of acquiring, for every member, the documents required for international travel. And while the visas kept flying in, HeVonen underwent over 400 kilometres of rigorous testing. The drivers trained their racing skills while the team prepared for the trifecta of static events. For a rookie team, the static part of the formula student competitions presents an opportunity to make a name for itself; as the scoring depends entirely on the knowledge and presentation of the students. And prepare we did. 3 mock sessions were conducted in front of the alumni, faculty and members. Accompanied by countless practice presentations. HeVonen was tested almost every day for over 2 months to eliminate as many uncertainties from the car as possible. This phase not only pushed the car but also the team to their limits. Sleepless nights of getting the car ready to race were put in by the members. 32 issues and solutions later, HeVonen was all set to perform. On 18th July we stripped the car of all assemblies and fluids in order to begin its journey of almost 7000 kilometres. With the watchful guidance of Flomic Freight Services, the car had no issues in clearing the intense customs at every stage of its travel. The team set off for Europe on 24th July with a warm send-off from alumni, friends and family.
After 3 days of travel by almost every mode of transport available, we reached Vienna. TU Wien, on of the local teams, hosted us at their workshop and helped get HeVonen back to race ready conditions. Subsequently after tirelessly working on the car for almost 22 hours straight, the members boarded a bus for Spielberg while HeVonen boarded a truck. With anticipation at an all-time high, we finally reached Red Bull Ring. Regarded as one of the best motorsport circuits of the modern day world, this track is a true spectacle of racing architecture. With the background score of superbikes zooming around the circuit at full throttle, we began setting up our pit and campsite. In a steady drizzle, we pitched the tents and got our grill running. The day was rounded off by delicious anda bhurji, paav bhaji and an upbeat team meeting.
Day 1 and HeVonen was ready for the technical inspection. We cleared the pre-scrutineering with no hiccups while the members interacted with fellow teams. As per schedule we entered the Mechanical Scrutineering on Day 2. The judging at FS events is of the highest calibre with intense attention given to the intent of the rulebook. In our first attempt, there were some issues regarding our intake locknuts, fuel tank mounting and pedal assembly. We sorted out the first two but had trouble with the welds of the brackets.
The following day was a challenge with all 3 static events scheduled throughout the day with scrutineering still remaining. Recurring issues with the pedal box meant the team had to rush to the static bays for cost and design events and then back to working on the car in the hot pit. With help from one of the welders from Dynamics E.V, we finally cleared scrutineering with just an hour left. On a high of clearing mechanical scrutineering, HeVonen also managed to sneak in and get the Tilt test done in the final minutes of the day. The morning of Day 3 was spent in correcting the BSPD circuit and getting the Noise Test sticker. Subsequently, we cleared the Brake test on the second attempt. Getting all 4 stickers at the second consecutive international event was truly a proud moment for the team. But there was little time to lose as we rushed to the Acceleration and Skidpad event. After 2 runs of Skidpad and a time of 5.613s, we got in line for Acceleration. But in our first and eventually only run, HeVonen had some problems with the rear left wheel hub which we had to replace before the Autocross event. Heavy rains meant we couldn’t test our new hub. As we queued up to give our run, we were greeted with some positive news regarding our static performance. An amazing 4th place in Cost Event with a score of 94/100 and a decent 58.8/75 in Business event. But this joy was short-lived as in the third Autocross run, our nightmares came true. On a particularly challenging part of the track, the hub broke and the wheel came off as the car spun on track. After close examination, the issue was understood to be a manufacturing error as the thickness of the petal base was about half of what it was designed to be. We left no stone unturned to try and find some way to participate in the Endurance day but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The only solution was replacing both rear hubs with newly designed ones. In the next 15 hours. With heavy hearts, we realized that HeVonen would not race in the Endurance at FS Austria.
But in true Stallion way, we decided to focus on what could be instead of what could’ve been. With some quick design upgrades in the hub, we sent the part out for manufacturing in Bhosari, Pune. Yes, you read that right. As the members in Spielberg packed up the campsite and got ready to travel to Hockenheim, the ones back home got the hubs ready and delivered them to DJS Racing, our friends from Mumbai, who were to join us in Germany. And thus, what seemed like a definite disaster led to the entire Stallion family working in unison to achieve a common goal. Once again, we learned the invaluable lesson of perseverance, determination and teamwork.
A short journey through the serene forests of Central Europe acted as a pacifier for the team as we reached Frankfurt, our abode for the next 2 days. The static guys worked on improving their documents and presentations while the rest worked on the car to rid it of every single anomaly. The big one lay ahead of us. 118 teams. 25 nations. The best from across the world. Since 2014, every single member had dreamt of Stallion Motorsport reaching Germany. But now, being there wasn’t enough. We wanted to make a lasting impression.
Stepping onto the historic Hockenheimring for the first time is unforgettable. Set in the humble town of Manheim, this circuit towers over the melancholic landscape with its majestic stands that can seat upto 120,000 spectators. 4.57 km of pure racing asphalt including the legendary straight between Nordkurve and Sudkurve. We couldn’t wait to see HeVonen on this track. But Formula Student Germany is reputed to have the most difficult round of inspection in the world. Having focused on keeping the car rule compliant right from the manufacturing phase, this was a task that we were looking forward to with confidence. After some minor issues regarding the battery mounting, brake hose routing and suspension rod end bearings in the first attempt, we earned our first sticker in our second and immediately got in line for the Tilt test. Unexpectedly, this turned out to be an arduous patch as HeVonen seemed to topple when tilted to 60°. They say, “A bruise is a lesson and each lesson makes us better.” 8 bruises later, we finally earned the Tilt sticker followed by the Noise one. And with all 4 wheels locking like never before, the final sticker followed. As we pushed the car into the pits after clearing the Technical Inspection, HeVonen was greeted with applause from all passing participants and judges; and the Stallion family from back home. Whatsapp and Instagram were filled with jubilant stories with just one tale to tell. Stallion was here.
Dynamic events at FSG can bring even the most casual racing fan to his feet as the teams put on lightning quick times with tuned cars driving and expert driving. This was the stage that we wanted to perform on. Once again, the members gave their all in the static events and achieved scores of 65.87/75 and 88.1/100 in Business and Cost event respectively accompanied by 65 points in Design event. HeVonen ran ablaze on Hockenheimring with the fastest timings in our history in both Acceleration (4.61s) and Skidpad (5.66s) events.
Day 6 was Autocross. With the memories of Austria still heavy on our minds, we tested HeVonen in the practice area to make sure everything was working as it was meant to be. As soon as the reliability of all systems was confirmed, the drivers were rearing to drive on the circuit. And drive they did. Confident but cautious, with one eye on the next day’s Endurance. As a preparation for the next day, we hosted all the Indian teams at our campsite for some garama-garam dal khichdi. Being able to enjoy a desi menu in Europe opened up the teams to share their experiences.
Then came the big day. 11th August. FSG 2019 Endurance. Each system in the car was checked thoroughly. Twice. And then again, just to be sure. Spurred on by a visit from our founding member and with the extended family glued to the live YouTube stream from India, HeVonen waited for its turn in the starting line-up. Car no. 215 was given the green flag to the roar of support from the bleachers and chants of “Arre awaaj kunacha? STALLION cha” and “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. Adrenaline was high with loud cheers at every single overtake, every full throttle and pretty much every time someone felt it. They say time passes slowly when you are in the moment that you dreamed of. The car firing up after the driver change was met with renewed vigour and excitement as a feeling of accomplishment slowly crept up in everyone’s minds. “Chequered Flag for Car No. 215!!” said the commentator but he was drowned by the uproar from the stands. The entire team rushed to the Dynamic Area. But the joy of greeting the car was delayed due to a tedious and tense Post Inspection. For an hour, the judges checked if the car was rule compliant and time stood still for the team. This trance was finally broken with a smile and thumbs up from the driver and captain from inside the dynamic area. HeVonen had completed the Endurance.
Looking back at the event, the team learnt a lot from the professional and detailed design approach followed by the top teams in the world. European events are unforgiving, especially for teams with limited budgets that are a fraction of what their European counterparts have. But what we lack in resources, we can make up for with engineering ingenuity and out of the box creative thinking. In every sport, the best teams in history are the ones who give their best inspite of their circumstances and motorsport is no different. This year, Stallion Motorsport set out with a goal of completing the FSG Endurance. And we did it. But mind you, we’re #notdoneyet