Backstage at Forze during the Gamma Racing Days 2017
After an exciting weekend at the Gamma Racing Day 2017, I have the honour of providing you with an update on behalf of the entire team about our progress. The emotions of the past weekend would be hard to explain without giving the context of the eventful year that preceded it. I will try to give a quick explanation of what made this race such a truly remarkable event for the whole team.
Work began with the new full-time team on September 1st 2016. The year began with some technical challenges, which provided an early hit to our morale. Fortunately the team was able to rally, and after many iterations, updates, and improvements to the car, most notably the accumulator system, the first kilometers could be driven. The team’s first public tests were to be held at the Pinksterraces at Circuit Zandvoort. Considering this would be the first drive on the track at Zandvoort, the test weekend was a much anticipated event. The car and team were ready and set to go, until several days before the track day, during a routine test, the vehicle refused to start. Consequently, many sleepless nights were spent trouble shooting, which resulted in a fix. The car hummed to life five minutes before the first test session was scheduled to begin that Friday. The test day was optimally used, providing much information and insight into performance. Unfortunately the weekend was cut short when, during a full power test on Saturday, the driveshaft disconnected from one of the gearboxes. This meant a temporary end of testing, and another eventful week for the team.
Several weeks elapsed before the Forze flagship vehicle was test-ready again, during which all hands were on deck to give the car as much track time before the year’s finale in August. Leo van der Eijk, Kevin Schreiber and Jan Bot each put in many late night hours to help the car back to operational status before it could be pushed to its limits on the track. Because of this monumental effort by all involved, the car charted faster times with each lap, and became more reliable and predictable every session… on the only exception of whenever Jan Lammers came to spectate. Our team ambassador was scheduled to drive a few laps in the car before the Gamma Racing Day in order to give feedback and to help promotion. Unfortunately both times he dropped by, the car refused to cooperate and did not start up as planned. As disappointing as it was, that is the nature of engineering complex systems on the forefront of what is technologically possible. Taking a positive mindset is vital at such times, and it was concluded that a breakdown during testing was better than on the big day, after all…
The last weeks could best be described as an intense, but rewarding flurry of activity. How the team’s engineers were still standing after 4 tests in 6 days, of which the earliest began at 9am in Assen, is anybody’s guess. Other than eating and the occasional nap, the technical core team, consisting of Huib Versteeg, Sander Verhage, Joost Berendsen, Oscar Verbeek, Sieger Falkena, Coen Lastdrager, Beau Smit and Colin Heimans, lived and breathed hydrogen. Exhausted as they were, their efforts paid off, and their performance was crucial in getting the car ready in the final stages of preparation.
On Thursday the 3rd of august at 7am, the race weekend began. The first heavily laden cars and busses departed Delft towards the TT circuit. Once we arrived, Tinie Lam, Sieger and I could begin setting the public relations stand up. Tinie and I would finally see the results of months of preparations… and what results they were! Tweereclame and Improve both provided us with a great begin to the weekend with a paddock that was beyond anyone’s expectations. Friday’s arrivals were Andy Maassen of Sim Racing Limburg with the race simulator, and Sodexo with the snacks and drinks to complete the stand. To round it off, the Toyota Mirai of Louwman & Parqui was placed out front. Once it was done, we observed the paddock in awe: it came together better than expected, and believe me, expectations were high!
Building the stand wasn’t the only thing that happened on Friday. The mechanics hangar in the Dream Hall in Delft was completely mobilised in order to provide technical support to the Forze VII which would go operational that day! I stood on the roof of the pit building with Daan Sistermans, our contact at Pitpoint, watching the Forze VII depart towards the track. All seemed to be going well until the vehicle stopped after travelling only ten meters down the pit lane. After minutes waiting, and another uneasy 30 meters travelled, the car was towed back to the paddock. The beginning of the free training was without a doubt one of the most stressful moments of the year. The car had been reliable in the preceding weeks, this could not have possibly been the end of the weekend. All the other team members on the roof and I had no idea what was wrong. Ultimately the issue was narrowed down to a pump that had failed to start, a fairly simple fix, but at the time I was preparing myself for another disappointment akin to what we experienced at the Pinksterraces. Fortunately, Sieger was able to restart the pump, and we were able to utilize the second half of training. Leo was in his zone, and even managed to race to the fourth best time in the class! After training, a wave of relief swept the team, and Daan could return to the Pitpoint office with good news.
The tech team worked until midnight Friday night, during which time I was also busy testing the simulator, as well as cleaning up and finalizing the VIP lounge, where we would receive our first guests Saturday morning. Because we were only participating in the race on Sunday, Saturday was a good day to get used to life on the track running a stand. It was noticeably quieter Saturday than Sunday, and after all tasks were finished in the morning, we were able to take a quick tour around the paddock. After focusing so hard on the car for so long, it was almost a surprise to find a whole world outside of Forze bustling with activity! A breath of fresh air was well deserved. Saturday was relatively uneventful and after the first enthusiastic guests came and went, and after having explained the intricacy of hydrogen fuel cells countless times, the team left the paddock for the relaxing environment of the “Glamping” to enjoy a delicious barbecue. After this, the heroes of the full-time tech team went back to the paddock to work until 4am getting the car race ready for the next day.
Sunday race day! Waking up was already pretty strange, as the day began almost like any other day. Only two hours before the race, when my mother, tears in eyes, told me how proud she was of the team, and only after people began to ask if I was nervous did I begin to feel the rush of adrenaline flush my body. Today is the day, a year of more than full-time work culminates in the events of today. The tension was palpable. An hour before the race, the team and guests assembled in the main tent, Mats Dirkzwager and Erik Bütker on behalf of Pitpoint gave a short word. Afterwards, the tent was closed down as quickly as possible and the best places along the track were found to observe the coming race. Nerves were truly on display when, during a short but powerful pre-race speech, Joost brought the team to tears.
Let the race begin! At 3pm I was ready on the grandstand to watch the field depart for the formation lap. The plan was for the Forze VII to begin at the back, then begin its climb up the leaderboards. The whole field had started, except for that one blue clad hydrogen powered racer. Forze VII lay motionless. This could not be possible! All those late nights and weekends spent toiling over the car flashed through my head. This was the worst moment for the car not to start. This could not be happening! It took three rounds, and the tension could be cut with a knife. From a distance, Tinie, my brother and I saw the back cover of the car open, as Remco Duba moved in to begin his technical magic from behind the screen of his laptop. Success! After a few more rounds, the back cover closed once again, and Leo guided the car out of the pit lane. Thanks Remco! The most inspiring was not that the car started, but the reaction of the spectators once it appeared on track. A massive applause followed the Forze VII as she lapped the track for the first time during an official race. Needless to say I was not the only one with goosebumps. After two minutes the car passed again, and this time Leo even began to flash his lights as he passed the grandstand! It was an amazing feeling to see the car race by, because that is precisely what it was: racing. This was proven when, in the first 20 minutes, Leo passed two cars in the first corner combo of the track. I don’t know what was going through his mind at the time, but my weekend had been made.
After a smooth pitstop, Jan took over the wheel. He would be the one to “take the car home”. The last ten minutes were very suspenseful, and Jan even overtook a Porsche in the same place that Leo passed two cars earlier. That the Porsche later overtook our car on the straights is besides the point, as a few moments later the TU Delft Forze VII crossed the finish line as the first ever hydrogen powered vehicle ever past the checkered flag! That moment was surreal, and I almost didn’t register at first. The car was on its way to the parc fermé where Tinie and I sprinted to congratulate the team. I almost ran past the car without realising it, when someone opened a gate and we joined the group photo. Then came the realisation of what the team had pulled off. All present and past, full- and part-time team members were overcome with joy. We pulled it off! The work of the past 10 years had all culminated and paid off on this one day in Assen. We even got a podium ceremony! As victors, we departed towards the grandstand where the party could really begin. I was first to receive felicitations, and after a few minutes the Forze VII entered with the whole tech team on top. What a heroes! Leo parked the car in front of the Supercar Challenge tent to allow Mats (with some help) to climb on top and deliver a speech. All were thanked, and the milestone could be celebrated!
As cliché as it is I will end this story on the following notes. What began as a quick summary of our weekend evolved into a saga in which I attempted to give a glimpse into the events and emotions of the weekend. I hope that you enjoyed this journey as much as we did at Forze. It would not have been possible without you, our sponsor, but also the parents, family and friends that have supported us enormously throughout this endeavour. In addition to this, there was a large group of part-time team members involved in this performance. This group may have, at times, been undervalued, but they too have been invaluable. I would also like to thank Hugo de Wolf and Jarno Kraayvanger of Worcflow, our media partners, for capturing our year in pictures. And I would like to extend special thanks to our primary sponsor Pitpoint; the Supercar Challenge, for giving us a chance to show the world what hydrogen is capable of; and finally the event sponsors Tweereclame, Sodexo, Improve, and Sim Racing Limburg, who helped us during the event to give the professional image that we hoped to portray.
I hope that you enjoyed this weekend and this story as much as I did. Even writing this brings a smile to my face that, for the time being, won’t be going anywhere.
– Mathieu Blanke, Acquisitions Manager
(English story by Willem van Vliet)
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Delftse studenten pakken wereldprimeur met waterstofraceauto
ASSEN – Tijdens de Gamma Racing Day op 6 augustus 2017 heeft het studententeam Forze Hydrogen Electric Racing van de TU Delft deelgenomen aan een fossiele brandstofcompetitie op het TT circuit in Assen. De studenten deden dit met een 100% schone waterstof-elektrische auto. Hiermee zet het team een wereldprimeur neer met waterstof in de conventionele racewereld.
De start van de race verliep enigszins moeizaam, maar ze hebben zich snel herpakt en konden zeer competitief meedoen met de sportklasse van de Supercar Challenge. “Dit is een unieke prestatie, voor het eerst deelnemen in een conventionele raceklasse met een waterstof-elektrische raceauto. Bizar dat we dit met z’n allen hebben kunnen doen. Ik sta er nog steeds een beetje van te kijken”, vertelt Team Manager Mats Dirkzwager. Tijdens de vrije training op vrijdag wist het team al de vierde tijd neer te zetten in de raceklasse. Dit toonde de potentie van de auto.
TU Delft students make world debut with hydrogen race car
ASSEN – Student team Forze Hydrogen Electric Racing has participated in a fossil fuelled competition during the Gamma Racing Days on the 6th of August 2017. The students competed with a zero emission hydrogen-electric car. The team has made the first step with hydrogen into the conventional racing world.
After a difficult start, the students picked themselves and joined the Supercar Challenge competitively. “This is a unique performance, participate as world’s first in a conventional race with a hydrogen-electric car. It’s incredible that we achieved this with the team. I am still impressed”, tells team manager Mats Dirkzwager. During the practise on Friday, the team already managed to pull of a fourth position. This truly shows the potential of the car.
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Delft – Student team Forze from Delft University of Technology joins a fossil fuelled race during the Gamma Racing Days on the 5th and 6th of August. The students will compete with a 100% clean hydrogen-electric car, which has never been done before in the racing history.
The team has been working with hydrogen for nearly a decade: from building hydrogen karts till realising world’s first hydrogen racecar. Competing with a hydrogen car however, will be a premiere. It is even the first time that a student team joins the competition, which is a tremendous challenge for the students. By doing so, they want to show the potential and power of hydrogen technology and prove that it is both feasible and exciting.
Former Formula 1 driver Jan Lammers has faith in the team. ‘They have grown in many ways, which is wonderful to see’, according to the driver. Lammers is Forze’s ambassador since 2012 and he has close connections with the team. He has been test-driving before and gives advice to the students. ‘It is crucial for us to understand what a driver experiences and notices during a test,’ Joost Berendsen tells, Chief Engineer. ‘Only in this way we can optimize the performance of the vehicle.’ How the car will perform, can be seen on Sunday the 6th around 15:00 on TT Circuit Assen.
Speed, innovation and sustainability: Select Courier introducing itself as new partner of Forze
Select Courier B.V. is an innovative logistical e-commerce company from The Netherlands. We use the power of our smart and easy-to-use online booking platform to provide customers with the best shipping solutions from the world’s major couriers to ship their parcels, documents and pallets.
Care for our climate and sustainability are ingrained in who we are. They are vital to how we do business, what projects we invest in and who we partner with. From this standpoint, we have developed a CO2 calculator in our multi-carrier platform that presents the carbon dioxide emission for each shipment. Our platform enables customers to financially compensate this emission. In this way, our customers have compensated tons of CO2 over the last years.
We believe in supporting innovative projects that contribute to sustainable, future-proof logistics. Which brings us to Forze and the development of the hydrogen electric vehicle. Speed, innovation and sustainability – these are the values we share and what makes us very excited about the Forze VII. We are convinced that the hydrogen racer will contribute to more sustainable innovations in transport and logistics. We are excited to partner with Forze and happy to offer our online software, service and shipping solutions.
The last month before the world premiere has begun: only one month left before we head east towards the Gamma Racing Days 2017! It has not always been easy, or hardly normal, but we are confident and hopeful to show you the best hydrogen race car ever built. After the valuable learning experience of the Pinksterraces, we are now pushing the limits even more. The repair of the driveshaft demanded quite some hours in order to prevent the malfunction from happening again. After a long session on the dynamometer with a redesigned housing in the gearbox, it is now time to get back on the track. We will now fully focus on racing, making it the best Supercar Challenge ever!
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The final month before the grand finale has started.
The past two years, we have been working on the development of this new hydrogen powered race car. Now, the final moment is near. The Forze VII will become world’s first hydrogen electric racer to compete in a competition destined for regular petrol powered cars: the Supercar Challenge 2017.
THE RACE DEBUT
AUGUST 5 & 6
GAMMA RACING DAYS
TT CIRCUIT ASSEN
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This might be the hottest newsletter so far! It has definitely been an exciting month. We added some milage to our Forze VII last month with a top speed of 183km/h overnight and the lady has set her very first meters on Circuit Zandvoort. The team has worked incredibly hard to realise this premiere and we are more than happy with the achievements. Have fun reading our June’s newsletter and do not forget to save the date whilst planning your holiday: August 5 & 6!
I decided to give a small update on how everything goes until now. So where do we start? Let’s go back to the Pinksterraces on the 3rd and 4th of June! At this nice and quiet event in the dunes of Zandvoort, we made our very first circuit kilometres with the Forze VII. Friday was the first day we came in action and the team worked like a clockwork to get the car on track in time. Five laps later and the first successful circuit debut of the Forze VII was completed. On the next day, we planned to drive a demo in front of the small crowd that turned up that weekend. After two laps, however, a technical problem occurred when our driver Kevin accelerated of the pits. The driveshaft came out of the gearbox and while doing so it damaged the tripod housing of the gearbox.
The driveshaft transfers the power and torque of the electric motors from the gearbox to the hub in the rear uprights, which then eventually makes the rear wheels turn. This driveshaft is placed with a so-called tripod connection in the gearbox as well as in the hub. There is some play in these connections to give the wheel some room to move up and down. Probably, one of the reasons that the tripod came out of the gearbox was because the distance between upright and gearbox was a little too long. We have worked incredibly hard together with our sponsors to produce and assemble new wishbones, pushrods and toe links so that the distance between gearbox and wheel is now shorter than it was before.
That’s it for now, stay tuned for the next track test!
After an eventful and successful Whitsun weekend at the Zandvoort circuit, we would like to give an update to all the Forze enthusiasts who unfortunately could not make it.
The highlight of last weekend was the Pinksterraces (Whitsun) races! With a thrilling mix of races ranging from BMW Challenges to Equipe GTS races, this truly was an eclectic experience for all car enthusiasts. Starting on Friday and ending on Sunday, these races went on almost all day on all three days, so there was always something to watch and enjoy along with the perfect weather. On top of this, this year’s edition of the Whitsun races included a memorial race for Marcel Albers, who tragically passed away in a racing-related accident in 1992. Whether you love the roar and raw power of a BMW M4, or the elegance and style of an Equipe GTS, there literately was everything for everyone.
Of course, aside from enjoying the races, Forze members were also regularly enjoying nice conversations with sponsors and fans, since this was also our first public appearance with a moving Forze VII. This was an honourable moment for the whole team after having worked long days and nights on the car’s completion, since its conceptual design was made in 2015. So, to celebrate this achievement the whole team had a barbeque together on Saturday, which only made the spirit of the team grow stronger. We would like to thank everyone, especially our sponsors, for your continued support and faith in our team.
Although she could not make her debut on Sunday, the Forze VII still managed to successfully drive a considerable amount of laps around the circuit, reaching speeds of up to 170km/h. Not only has it given us a feeling of achieving another milestone, but it has also shown the potential of hydrogen technology since the Forze VI. With these successful laps we are well on track for the upcoming race in August: the Supercar Challenge!
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