Each year, motorsport simulation software expert ChassisSim launch a competition to get the brightest brains in motorsport thinking. This year the aim was to create a fast and driveable GT3 set up specifically for Bathurst circuit. Everyone was provided with the same resources – 1 unique car model, 1 circuit model and a professional ChassisSim licence with 100 simulations. Over 60 experienced and aspiring engineers took part in the competition so we’re hugely proud to announce that two NMA students succeeded where so many others floundered. Winning $250, 50 online simulations and eternal bragging rights, MSc Advanced Motorsport Engineering student Abel Diaz came in 3rd place. NMA MSc student Bertrand Vanysacker beat many other more experienced engineers to come in 8th place.
We caught up with Abel Diaz over in California to find out more about his entry and career path since he started studying with the NMA.
NMA MSc Student, Abel Diaz
Meet Abel Diaz. Abel grew up in La Coruña, Spain, where he got his first MSc degree in structural engineering. In 2009, he moved to California to specialize in structural dynamics and seismic engineering at Stanford University, and for the last 12 years has been working on structural applications for buildings, bridges, and aircraft design with a focus on dynamics and optimization.
Tell us about your ChassisSim entry
The challenge put forward this year was a GT3 setup to optimize both lap time and drivability for the challenging circuit of Bathurst in Australia that combines long straights with a bumpy and twisty mountain sector. Among a variety of other modifications within the rules for the competition, my setup focused on softening the springs and bars at the front together with some suspension geometry and damping refinements that proved very efficient particularly in the mountain sector, for a total of over 3 seconds of lap time improvement. What Danny Nowlan (Director of ChassisSim) mentioned that separated me from the two top entries was minor differences on the tuning of the dampers for drivability.
As I was progressively adding grip to the front to correct understeer in that middle sector, I perhaps went a bit too far and could have used a bit more dynamic control with the dampers, as it was a fast car but he reported some oversteer feeling when bringing the setup in the Driver In the Loop simulator that would be a challenge in long stints (I did spot some potential snaps based on the stability index, but difficult to know until you test the setup how sensitive they would be). I definitely learned a couple of new things about ChassisSim and dynamics in the process, and it was a very rewarding experience.
You're from a Civil Engineering background. What led you to study with the NMA?
Since my childhood I have always been very passionate about motorsport both as a fan (my first memories of closely following the F1 championship are from the 1994 battle between Schumacher and Hill) and on the track participating in arrive-and-drive karting events. Tied to that is my natural interest in engineering and the technical aspects of motorsport. I never thought it would be possible to combine a demanding full-time job with learning the ins and outs of motorsport engineering with the necessary technical rigor and a practical approach to the industry until I heard about the NMA MSc online degree. It seemed too good to be true, so I started preparing my application right away!
How do you think the MSc Advanced Motorsport Engineering will help your career?
Although I currently work on a different engineering industry, the MSc is helping me bridge the gap between disciplines and cross-pollinate knowledge. All the content so far has direct practical applications, and the tutors have also been helpful in establishing industry connections for further career insight and opportunities.
How have you found the course so far?
I am approximately half-way through the MSc and have really enjoyed the experience so far. The modules are demanding and require self-discipline with many study nights and weekends outside of my daily job, but because I find the content extremely interesting and have been wanting to explore many of the topics in detail for years, I am usually looking forward to the time of the day when I get back to my study time.
What are your plans for the future?
Still a bit early to tell, but I hope the NMA MSc allows me to eventually gain some level of motorsport engineering experience with a race team in a competitive series similarly to the success of past students in the program.
ChassisSim - The Results
Danny Nowlan, Director of ChassisSim was hugely impressed by the standard of entries for this year’s competition.
“In the recent ChassisSim Online Race Engineering Competition for 2021 I was really pleased with the entries of the NMA students, in particular Abel Diaz and Bertrand Vanysacker. Their entries showed not just attention detail but also a practicality and guile that was missing from some of the other student entries”.
You can watch Danny run through the best entries in the video below.