Many thanks for agreeing to speak to do this interview. To start things off, could you first tell me a little bit about your current job role and what you are responsible for?
Officially, I am retired, I was 71 a few weeks ago. However, I still keep busy, I am a guest lecturer at the Uni of Technology in Sydney and I am the Tech Editor of an Australian Motorsport Magazine. That, along with attending several international Formula Student events each year keeps me busy.
Could you describe your background, qualification and how you got involved in Formula Student?
Before emigrating to Australia, I graduated in Mechanical Engineering. I was involved in International Karting as VP of the CIK with responsibility for Technical matters, but was very concerned at the negative effect karting was having on the education of young people. In 1994 while visiting the US on business, I attended FSAE as a visitor. I attended again in 1996 as a volunteer and the rest, as they say, is history.
Recruited as a Design Judge by Carroll Smith, my first event as a judge was 1999 in the UK. Then we started FSAE Australasia in 2000 and I was invited to help start FSG in 2006.
Typically, I work at up to six FS/FSAE events each year, I write an occasional blog on the FSG site (‘Pat’s Corner’) and I maintain a Facebook group ‘FSAE Advice and Support’ which currently has about 4000 members.
As a judge at other events, what are the common mistakes you have seen student teams make?
Apart from not reading the rules?
Firstly, students need to understand that Formula Bharat is a Design Competition, not a ‘Build a Racecar as we go along’ competition. Sure, the intent is to ‘Build a Racecar’, but it must be properly designed first and the students must be able to defend that design.
Probably the most common mistake made by new teams is to design the chassis first and then start adding stuff to try make everything fit and work. Invariably, the result is big, heavy and slow. Teams should realise the chassis is really nothing more than a complex bracket that holds everything together and so it cannot be designed until the designer knows what has to be bracketed.
A second issue we see is teams trying to achieve something beyond their capabilities. For instance, someone suggests that ‘Carbon Fiber is cool, they make Formula One Chassis out of it’. So the team blindly set out to make a carbon car with no idea of the complexities involved.
What would be your top technical piece of advice to any team?
The advice given would always be tempered by the experience of the team, but here in India, my advice to a new or inexperienced team would be to ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’. I don’t mean this in any insulting way, but realistically, the team must design and build a car within their capabilities if they wish to get the most benefit from a Formula Student experience. Each year we see so many disappointed teams with unfinished cars that do not get to compete.
So, the team should ensure they have all that they need to design and build a car and get it finished in time to test before the competition.
Which was your favorite competition to attend, and why?
I don’t have a favourite. Each event is unique in some way or another, but all have bright students, all working towards a common goal. Interacting with the students everywhere is what I like best! Another thing I really enjoy is interacting with the other like minded judges.
Over the years you have been involved with FS, what has been the best moment?
There have been several but the one I remember most fondly was in 2003, when the University of Wollongong, a small uni about 100 kilometers South of Sydney, took their second car to Detroit for the US FSAE event and won outright. An inexperienced team from a small team could travel across the world and beat the best. They proved it could be done!