The University of New South Wales (UNSW) Redback Racing Team has won an impressive second place overall in the Formula SAE-A competition, along with top-seven placements in all static and dynamic events. Redback Racing was also one of the few teams to showcase an autonomous, driverless car, RB21-D.

The Formula SAE-A is the annual Australasian competition of the SAE International movement and challenges student teams to design, build and race a small Formula-style race car.

Teams not only compete in the race, but also in business, cost, and design presentations before demonstrating their cars’ performance in skid pad, acceleration, autocross, and endurance performance. The competition is designed to showcase all aspects of a race team with the most consistent team across all disciplines earning the “best overall” title.

About 130 students are involved in Redback Racing, with an impressive 88 of them travelling to Melbourne for the 2023 competition. The team brought two cars – their new RB23 electric race car and the RB21-D driverless vehicle.

With 23 competing teams from 6 countries, the Electric Vehicle (EV) competition is the largest and most competitive category. Redback Racing came out as the best overall Australian team, finishing just behind the University of Canterbury from New Zealand.

“Our initial goal for our EV this year was a top-ten finish, which we then elevated to a top-five finish to really push ourselves and have something competitive to aim towards after our experience at competition in 2022. We are thrilled to say we achieved second place, surpassing our own expectations and matching one of our historic best results. It's an achievement we are extremely proud of, especially considering it was only our second dynamic electric vehicle,” said Haylee Hulbert, 2023 Team Leader and 4th year Media, PR and Advertising student.

With a weight of only 275 kg, RB23 can reach a top speed of 130 km/hour, accelerating from 0 to 100 km/hour in only 3 seconds.

The team performed well in the competition’s static events, coming 3rd in Business Presentation and 5th in Engineering Design and Cost. In the dynamic events, they placed second in Endurance, third in Acceleration, seventh in Skidpan and third in Autocross.

The team's accomplishment in the Endurance event, which tests the vehicles efficiency, was particularly noteworthy, considering they were unable to complete the event last year.

“To be able to not just compete in all dynamic events but be as competitive as we were, was well beyond our expectations. Finishing second was an amazing feat, as the endurance event can be particularly challenging for EVs due to thermal limits and the stresses placed on the electrical and mechanical systems. Our emphasis on building a robust and well-tested package throughout the year well and truly paid off,” said Guy Barker, 5th year Mechanical Engineering student and the 2023 Technical Director.

RB23 is the team’s second-ever dynamic electric vehicle.

Redback’s first Autonomous Vehicle (AV), RB21-D, is retrofitted from their previous RB21-E. Despite there not being a scored category for AVs at the Australasian competition yet, the team was able to demonstrate progress in autonomous vehicle technology, including advancements in autonomous braking, steering and throttle control.

The Redback Racing team’s 2023 journey built upon lessons learned from the 2022 competition, focusing on optimising point-scoring ability. The team adopted a philosophy of “keep it simple, do it right”, taking the time to knuckle down on the finer details and the designs of the vehicles. This philosophy guided every design decision, both technically and in the business branch, ensuring a structured and reasoned approach to the entire operations of the team.

“Coordinating a team of 130 students working on two cars is a massive challenge, and it’s impossible to design one facet of the car in isolation from another. It requires constant communication between all of our technical departments to make sure that everything integrates well,” said Haylee.

The senior leadership team consisted of Haylee Hulbert (Team Lead), Guy Barker (Technical Director), Hayley Jiang (Business Director), Anthony Tran (Treasurer).

The technical and business departments were led by Jocelyn Hu (Chassis Lead), Kevin Shen and Kalindu Dahanayake (Suspension and Brakes Leads), Julio Martins (Aerodynamics and Cooling Lead), Abhi Singh, Jeffrey Chandy and Aakash Masud (Electrics Leads), Timothy Letran (EV Mechanical and Driveline Lead), Edward Ambrogio (Data Acquisition Lead) and Anish Ghai (Autonomous Systems Lead), Daniel Tang (Media Lead), Anjalie Elizabeth Matthews (Internal Relations Lead) and Fatima Ahmed (External Relations Lead).

The laboratory operations and the electrical side of design and implementation were supported by Mr Benjamin Willis and Dr Matthew Priestley.

However, it’s the entire team together that made the success happen, says Haylee.

“Every single member counts. Every member of the team contributed massive time and energy, making it a year of significant dedication. Witnessing how the team rallied around to get the job done and came together as a collective was incredibly rewarding.”

Associate Professor Jin Zhang from UNSW School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Academic Supervisor of Redback Racing, is extremely proud of the team.

“This accomplishment involved an enormous amount of work and dedication from the students and especially the leadership team. Everyone demonstrated a remarkable passion, investing their time and money to support the team’s effort. This dedication encourages us to continue our efforts and inspire more engineering students to participate,” she said.

Looking ahead, the team will be working towards improving and advancing their EV and Autonomous capabilities as a team.

“We are incredibly excited to see what this team can do for 2024, where we will continue to develop our skills, methods and tests to get our team to reach even higher levels,” said Kalindu Dahanayake, 4th year Mechatronics and Computer Science student and 2024 Team Lead.

“Our new team philosophy for this year is "One car, one team”. Essentially, coming together more as a team,” said Haylee.

“Longterm we are looking into hub motor development and shifting from a steel space frame to a carbon monocoque for our chassis. These changes will help us grow in our engineering skill and capability as well as produce an even more competitive vehicle. I'm looking forward to seeing the team take last year as a new benchmark and achieve even more.”

There are also plans to add innovative technologies focusing on environmental sustainability, which could attract more sponsors and be beneficial to the business presentation in the competition, said A/Prof. Zhang.

Redback Racing does more than just racing a vehicle at the competition. The team plans to continue their school outreach efforts and community involvement, inspiring the next generation of engineers.

The team is supported by the UNSW School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. Head of School, Professor Chun Wang, witnessed the competition at Calder Park Raceway along with representatives from the team’s Sponsors.

“2023 has been an amazing experience for me as a leader and for the entire team. It's one of the most rewarding aspects of my degree and university experience. I highly recommend joining Redback to anyone and be a part of something so special,” said Haylee.

The team being announced as 2nd place and awarded their trophies

The Redback Racing team would like to thank their top sponsors: ARC, Schaeffler, AWS, Quickstep Aerostructures at Bankstown Aerodrome, Sydney Motorsport Park and ARDC, UNSW, UNSW Makerspaces, PWR Advanced Cooling, T.I Performance and TE Connectivity.