Inspiring the next generation of tire engineers – Smithers and MRacing

Smithers Rapra collaborates with University of Michigan's Formula SAE team to gather lab data to assist in creating the optimal design for their 2016 racecar.

Photo courtesy of Julie Sharobeem, Bosch

For the second year in a row, Smithers Rapra is collaborating with University of Michigan’s Formula SAE team to gather controlled lab data on tire performance to configure optimal construction specifications for the team’s 2016 formula style racecar. Formula SAE is a collegiate racing series that allows students to utilize their technical engineering and business skills to design and manufacture formula-style racecars to compete at national and international competitions. Competitions are organized by dynamic, design, cost and business events.

Smithers Rapra started working with the MRacing team in 2013, when the team approached them about gaining a better understanding of how tire lab data can best be applied to develop better vehicle dynamics and performance. “With on-track testing, there are so many limitations and uncontrolled variables,” explains Karkos. “There could be driver errors, uncontrollable environmental conditions and time limitations. Lab testing allowed us to conduct a series of controlled tests to our vehicle specifications to help maximize our tire’s performance before testing on the track.”

Dean Tener, technical manager for Smithers Ravenna laboratory recalls how the teams collaborated to develop their testing program.  “During our first session, I suggested several test methods that could provide valuable data based on the car’s design and beyond conditions they were currently using,” said Tener. “By expanding the range of conditions, we were able to determine an improved setup, which produced more cornering force. This was key to improvement because it helped us to understand the interaction between two tire characteristics.”

Through their experimental lab testing and consulting with Smithers, MRacing was able to evaluate several variables to maximize their vehicle’s setup. During the team’s 2015 season, MRacing placed seventh in the design event out of 120 teams and at the start of the 2016 season finished fifth out of 110 teams at the FSAE Michigan competition. “We partially attribute our success to our partnership with Smithers Rapra,” said Karkos. “Our analysis of the tire data and resulting impact on our vehicle performance was the main talking point in the design event.”

With 15 returning team student members, you can expect great things from the 2016 MRacing team as they work through their 30th year as a competitive team. With a strong new engineering design core and top notch management, the team is well-equipped to finish on top.

Learn more about MRacing’s team and their 2016 competition season by following them on Facebook.

About Smithers Rapra                     

Smithers whole tire testing and material analysis laboratories are well equipped to perform a broad range of testing protocols and industry standard evaluations like force and moment, rolling resistance and traction/ tread wear. A team of dedicated professionals works with each client to understand the tire’s construction, material selection and lifetime expectations. Whether the goal is fuel efficiency or speed, Smithers Rapra’s tire and vehicle testing services ensure optimal performance under any condition.

Learn more about Smithers Rapra's tire testing capabilties here.