Racing Series * Racetracks * CalendarNAMARS Formula Lightning SeriesFor those old enough to remember the sound the famous STP turbine Indy Cars made, the sound of the cars of this series should be familiar. There's hardly any sound at all!
You see, with these NAMARS Formula Lightning Cars, power to the track is applied from a unique electrical motor system powered by 32 12-volt batteries, putting out some 350 volts. Lean and clean would not describe these cars as the batteries weigh in at a monumental 1,400 pounds for each car and are carried in the side pods. Even with the heavy weight, the pit crews for these teams can change and replace the batteries in less than 30 seconds. What a pit stop!
This unique power system creates an interesting weight rule that has a maximum weight the cars can waive. How so? With these cars, the more they weigh, the better. Additional batteries can be added for more power.
So who are the teams with these strange racing machines? We're talking "pure college" here with a number of major universities fielding teams, including Bowling Green State University, Brigham Young University, Indiana/Purdue University Indianapolis, Kettering University, University of Notre Dame, Ohio State University, Ohio University, University of Oklahoma, West Virginia University and Wright State University. The cars are totally maintained by the college students, but, a professional driver drives each car.
The University Consortium created the series in 1994 for Electric Car Racing as a competitive platform for the development of electric-powered automotive-type propulsion systems. It was decided that participation of electrical engineering departments of top U.S. universities would be a great experience. The national NAMARS sanctioning group took over the sanctioning body in late 1999.
The spec car design for the Formula Lightning cars resembles an old Indy roadster. The sleek machines with silent powerplants are amazingly quick, capable of speeds up to 140mph. In fact, in 2000 the Ohio State team ran at better than 147mph in a flying-mile run.
The cars run four races per year, and have competed on road courses, such as Mid-Ohio, and oval tracks, such as Richmond International Raceway and Phoenix International Speedway, Indianapolis Raceway Park and others. Without a doubt, they are a huge fan favorite.
A lot of latitude is allowed in the series. The student crews have the chance to try their own ideas within the rules. Changes to the engine are allowed in the rotor and windings. This can result in huge horsepower differences between the teams. As can be expected, however, the higher the power, the quicker the batteries deplete.
A normal electric car can make about 15 laps on a half-mile track at or near full speed. Of course, it could go farther, but at a lower power level. As you can see, there is definitely a lot of strategy here. A pit stop is mandatory in all races.
The Formula Electric cars use a standard open wheel-type suspension system with Penske coilover shocks that the teams are allowed to tweak for maximum handling capabilities. The powertrain also has a standard quick-change rear end, with the motor located in the rear of the car.
You have to believe this series is for learning and fun. There is no money involved for winning or finishing, just the pride and prestige for the students' university.