Pictured: Some members of the LJMU e-Racing team taking part in this year's Formula Student event, with a previous team's racing car
Summer break is often about pulling pints in the local pub or jolting around the Med on an overheated train.
So, imagine the thrill for LJMU students who start July on the grid at Silverstone, rubbing shoulders with Formula 1 royalty.
The team of engineers are competing in Formula Student, Europe’s leading university motorsport competition, which runs from 6 – 10 July.
The 25-strong team, which includes two female engineers, is tasked with building a single-seat race car for autocross and sprint racing which will be scrutinised by professionals and driven by up to six lucky team members.
For the first time, LJMU is entering a car into the electric vehicle class, a technical challenge and a strong statement about this generation’s commitment to a greener, cleaner future.
We went to meet our Formula Student team in the engineering labs at Byrom Street as they enter the critical phase of building the car they’ll put through its paces at the famous circuit.
Meet the team
Head of Team is Cameron Reedy, from Shrewsbury, who confesses he’s a bit of a veteran, having been in the FS team at LJMU for the past three years: “I was Head of Mechanical last year which is Nicola’s role. It’s great how everyone on the course can apply to be on the team but it’s your peers who vote you in.”
Pictured: Head of Team Cameron Reedy
Cameron has actually landed a job already as a research and development engineer with a company that makes powertrains for IndyCar and NASCAR.
“I’ve always wanted to go into motor racing, certainly since the last year of school. From a young age, I just loved Formula 1, everything from the engineering to the racing.
“When I saw LJMU had a student racing team I could get involved with, combined with its excellent engineering facilities, I knew I wanted to study here.”
Nicola Magee, a Masters student from Northern Ireland, got involved in her first year because “building a car would be really cool”.
“I’ve always had a passion for how things work. I’m always pulling apart my stuff and putting it back together.”
Pictured: Head of Mechanical Nicola Magee
As Head of Mechanical, Nicola is developing her leadership skills, but also emphasises the social aspects: “We’ve been Go Karting three times and there’s a good sense of group. For me friendships are really important.
“There are a few girls involved, past and present, but the mostly-male environment doesn’t bother me to be honest. We’re all equal.
So, what about the car?
“Each year a new team inherits last year’s model, so it’s a bit like buying a second-hand car and souping it up,” states Cameron, “The team builds upon the strengths and weaknesses of the previous model to further optimise each system.”
The electric car makes it far more complex.
“One of the most challenging jobs is to work out how to get the powertrain system, battery, and motor controller to work together, whilst keeping safety paramount and an eye on the rulebook.
“I’m confident we’ll have the car ready and running before competition, however once we get there almost anything can happen!”
With still “a million things to fix and test” Cameron says many of the guys are putting in more hours than when they were in term-time.
“It really takes dedication and that’s a great thing to show to potential employers, along with the soft skills, and the ability to work with different personalities and under pressure.
“Yes, the LJMU Faculty staff offer advice and technical support (and financing!) but this car is solely down to us and everything you see here is down to the team.”
We’ll just enjoy it!
The excitement is palpable as race day approaches – the trip, the track, the personalities – Ross Brawn and Jensen Button are regulars - and Nicola just wants everyone to enjoy it.
“When we go to Silverstone we’re going to have a really great time. Yes, there’ll be pressure but it’s just a fantastic, fun experience for all of us.”
We’ll catch-up with the team again before they set off for Silverstone.
Find out more about LJMU’s School of Engineering.