It was a rainy afternoon in June in Hanoi when members of the BK LEAD of the Hanoi University of Science and Technology Aerodynamic Institute were finishing their ‘Formula 1’ car for Formula SAE, a design competition organized by the Society of Automotive Engineers International for students around the world.
At the competition – which is scheduled to take place in Japan from September 2 to 6 – the prototype race car is to be evaluated for its potential as a production item. Each student team designs, builds, and tests their prototype cars.
This year, the contest gathers hundreds of participating teams from 120 countries around the world.
The low-cost Vietnamese race car
The BK LEAD’s car is the result of more than two years of hard work by its creators who have reused old details like suspensions, engines and tires from old cars to save money.
Nguyen Van Thuong, the leader of the car’s manufacturing group, said the cost for the over 300kg car is around VND150 million (US$7,142).
“The main system of the car includes the frame, engine transmission, steering, brake, suspension and tires,” Thuong said. “For a ‘Formula 1’ car, the brake system plays a very important role in helping the vehicle to move at an extremely high speed. For this ‘student formula’ car, the brake system must ensure safety when the vehicle is moving at a high speed. BK LEAD succeeded in creating a system that did just that. As designed, this car can run at a maximum speed of more than 100km per hour.”
The students created the vehicle with the help of generous mentors. Dr. Hoang Thang Binh, who recently finished studying in Japan, introduced the contest to his students. He also raised VND10 million to help the group begin the project.
Another man who played an important role in the creation of the car is Tran Van Ty, owner of large cylinder vehicles in Hanoi, who many students call “teacher” although he does not work at a school.
Known as a skillful worker, Ty has shared his experiences with many local aerodynamic students after their classes.
“During the last two years, we visited the shop to learn after school. He has taught us a lot. The theory we learned from school helps us with the designing part while practicing at the shop brought us a lot of knowledge that helped us build our car,” Thuong shared.
Ty allowed Thuong’s group to work on the car in his shop and let them use his equipment.
“Their passion led me to want to help them. Dr. Binh is not rich but still sponsors his students. I have materials and equipment, so why don’t I?” Ty shared. “The youths can learn while I can do what I love. It gives me the chance to live through them. I didn’t have the chance to do what I wanted when I was young. I want to help them pursue their dreams. I can’t give them hundreds of millions of dong per month, but I can help them with VND3-5 million per month.”
The leader of BK LEAD proudly said if they officially attend the competition, this will mark the first time a Vietnamese car has been in the contest in its entire history.
However, he also expressed worries about being able to raise enough money for the team to attend the event.
“Even though the car has been numbered for the contest, we still worry whether the vehicle can really make it to the competition because we have to use our own money as per its regulations. We have asked some enterprises but still haven’t received any response,” Thuong said.