Nicola and Gabriella are racing into their final year at DMU


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Success at Silverstone racing circuit has put two De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) students in pole position for the final year of their studies.

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Team photo at Silverstone this year

Nicola Falciani and Gabriella Martínez de Luca are members of the 30-strong DMU Racing team, which notched up its highest ever placing in the international Formula Student competition at the home of British motorsport in July.

After making substantial changes to its petrol car – including decreasing the wheels from 13 inches to 10 and using significantly more carbon fibre for the bodywork, steering wheel and seat to shed 32 kilos – the team finished in 23rd position overall and 17th among UK competitors.

Now entering the final year of his Mechanical Engineering BEng, Nicola led the team to success during a paid placement year with DMU Racing.

“It was a real challenge – we completely stripped the car down, reconsidered all components and redesigned it with last year’s engine as a starting point,” said the 24-year-old from Birmingham.

“Around 80 per cent of it was designed and built at DMU. The rest was outsourced, but students worked closely with the external companies to learn about the design and production process.”

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Nicola and Gabriella talking tactics before hitting the track

Proving that DMU Racing attracts members beyond engineering subjects is Animation BA (Hons) student Gabriella, one of the team’s drivers. Thanks to the passion passed down by her engineer and racing car driver father, Gabriella has been karting since she was seven years old.

The 19-year-old from Spain said: “DMU is known for being strong in the arts and I was impressed with what graduates have gone on to achieve, but what really drew me to the university was knowing it had both a good racing team and karting society.”

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Gabriella competed in the Formula Student acceleration test and the sprint test this year. “I’m not going to lie, I was quite nervous as I wanted to do my best and bring the car home for the team,” she said. 

“I felt like a proper racing driver though. Silverstone is an amazing track and it was an honour to be there.”

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Gabriella also had the chance to utilise the skills she’s learning on her degree, redesigning the steering wheel and the overall look and livery of the car.

She said: “A driver’s feedback is really important in racing as it can ultimately determine the setup and speed of the car. But I’m really happy that I also got to use my animation skills to improve the car.

“Being part of the team since starting at DMU has been fantastic. I’ve learned a lot about engineering and my teammates are great. It’s a male-dominated environment but everyone is super welcoming – at the end of the day, we’re all there doing what we love and gender doesn’t matter.”

With leading manufacturer Caterpillar as the team’s title sponsor, students have access to ongoing technical support, as well as benefiting from a welding workshop and a tour of the company’s facilities to learn about the process of mass producing a racing car. 

Nicola said: “Being team leader was a really beneficial experience. Working closely with industry experts and learning from final-year students on the team was great preparation for the last year of my degree and for the workplace.

“I’ll be involved with the team in a different way this year, but I’m looking forward to the challenge of finding new ways to improve the performance of the car.”

Posted on Friday 11th October 2019

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