By Brahm Landis
My J-term this year was spent interning with Nissan; more specifically, Nissan’s LMP1 race team. The LMP1 program is one of the most, if not the most, prestigious racing discipline in the world. These cars run on the World Endurance Circuit, which means that all the races are 6 hours or longer, with the crown jewel of the season being the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Nissan is competing against cars from names such as Audi, Porsche, and Toyota. These cars are called factory cars because the teams are funded and sponsored by the automobile manufacturers themselves.
The person I interned with was Ben Bowlby, a long-time friend of mine, both the Team Principal and Technical Director, and also the mastermind of the entire project. Working with him was a great pleasure because I have thought for a long time that what I want to do for a living is work on racecars. This was a really great opportunity to see what it would really be like. This opportunity was unbelievably amazing because I was able experience what a real race team is like, and have an all access pass into the world of professional auto racing.
There were two main parts to my internship, one was shop work and the other was testing. The first week was spent at the shop where I weighed nearly all the parts to the car so that they could have a 3D weight graph of how the weight was distributed in the car. The next 10 days were spent around the country testing the car. This was by far the most fun part of the internship. The first of the two tests was at WindShear, a wind tunnel facility in Charlotte, NC, for two days. There, I gained invaluable experience and had a “crash course” in aerodynamics, namely in how splitters generate down force, diffusers control airflow and how vortexes are vital to the stability and efficiency of a racecar’s down force production.
After Charlotte, we flew back to Indy for a night then flew to Austin, TX for track testing at the Circuit of The Americas the next day. The atmosphere of this test was completely different than the wind tunnel test because a lot more was dependent on the success of this test. During the testing, I measured brakes temperatures for each run and compiled those, along with the tire pressures and temperatures, into a spreadsheet with data from every run. Because of the nature of my task, I was up close to the car during and in between tests. This helped me get a better understanding of the car and integrate with the team. I was really appreciative of the guys’ openness and willingness to let me get in there and be hands on with them during testing. While I did not know anywhere near as much as they did, they still treated me like a peer and held me to the same accountability as they did themselves.
I would definitely say that I matured as a result of this trip. I was held responsible for my own actions and I pushed myself further than what I thought I could handle with such stressful, long, exhausting days mixed with complex tasks. The biggest things I have come away with is that one, motivation is the key to everything. If you are not motivated, you will not succeed, even if you have the best ideas and the most creative mind, without motivation you can’t accomplish anything. The other big takeaway from my internship was a personal one. I really gained a confidence in myself that I did not have before. I found that it is okay to ask questions no matter who you are speaking with, and if you’re going to do something, do it with purpose. Even if you do something wrong, the worst thing that will come of it is that you redo it, but if it’s right, you have an excellent product on your hands and one that you are proud of because you know the outstanding quality was the result of your hard work and purpose.
In the end, even though the days were long and the nights were short, I think back everyday to my time with the team and wish I were still on that journey with them. Those three weeks interning with Ben and the rest of the team were the best three weeks of my life and I can’t wait for the time when I can do that every day.