x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Budding F1 teams burn rubber at Yas circuit

Racing teams from across the Emirates took part in the F1 in Schools Rookie Competition on Monday.

Students from Repton School in Dubai cheer as their team, Project Speed, was called as the winner of the F1 In Schools National Final winners. Delores Johnson / The National
Students from Repton School in Dubai cheer as their team, Project Speed, was called as the winner of the F1 In Schools National Final winners. Delores Johnson / The National

ABU DHABI // An all-girl racing team burned rubber in a bid for glory at the F1 in Schools Rookie Competition at Yas Marina Circuit on Monday.

“It’s always ‘boys and cars,’ and ‘girls and dolls.’ We want to change that,” said Valerie Cornelio, a 15-year-old student from Indian High School in Dubai. “We want to be the girls that win.”

The team of six schoolgirls designed a flashy aerodynamic amber, black and yellow scaled down replica of a Formula One race car out of wood for the contest.

They called their car Golden Flames, and it “smoked” much of the competition thanks, in part, to Sareem Farook, their fast-thumbed 14-year-old teammate whose job it was to press the trigger that launched the car down a 20-foot track.

Sareem’s best finishing time was 1.313 seconds, and even though the fastest and slowest times of the six races are scratched from the team’s record, Golden Flames’ average time was quick enough to land the team in second place. This was behind Victoria International School of Sharjah, which held a strong lead with a time of 1.056.

But the students’ dream of becoming the first girls-only team from their school to place at the podium was dashed when two other teams knocked them to fourth place in the race component and seventh overall.

“We didn’t win, but we’re still happy,” said Valerie.

“Even winning or losing, we’re still a team and we go through the hardships and the best times together. We’ll try again.”

But, as everyone who competes in the F1 in Schools programme knows, winning is only half the battle.

Participants must also develop a marketing plan around their cars as they are judged on everything from original logos to the team uniforms they wear on race day. They must also give a presentation to the judges.

“Basically we look at the identity of the team, how they manage the identity of their car, their pit display and their sponsors,” said judge Fernando Fernandez.

“How did they get their sponsors, what did they give the sponsors in return, and how did they set up the pit display? So basically, how was it organised, what items did they use, does it look professional or not, and does it sell the team as a good team or not?”

Thirty teams set up race pits at the Yas Marina Circuit, displaying everything from animated holograms of their cars to smoke machines and even an aquarium.

Team members cold-called sponsors to get financing or in-kind donations of services.

Al Tareq Al Ameri, chief executive of Yas Marina Circuit, said participation in the annual competition is growing.

This year, the three-day competition attracted 90 teams comprising 500 students from across the country.

“Our programme gives the students, in addition to the science and academic experience, a real life experience so they will behave and act as an F1 team,” said Mr Al Ameri.

“The F1 in Schools programme, it’s more than just becoming an F1 driver, it’s about learning the fundamentals behind putting together a team.

“That could be anything from engineering to teamwork, to marketing, sponsorship, they have to get all those mechanics in place to compete, which is outside what they would get in the curriculum in school.”

Repton School Dubai’s Project Speed and Top Speed took first and second place respectively overall, making Project Speed the youngest team to attend the international competition, which will be held in Abu Dhabi again later this year.

Austin Adamson, a 12-year-old Year 7 pupil who is a member of Project Speed, praised his teammates and thanked his parents, teachers and Yas Marina Circuit. He said the team looked forward to representing the UAE at the international championship.

“I think we’ve got really good chances,” Austin said.

rpennington@thenational.ae