18 Oct World Solar Challenge: Day One
Day one of the World Solar Challenge is done! We made it to the second control stop, Dunmarra, just as the racing day was ending, pulling in at 4:56pm. There were two other teams, Megalux and Punch Powertrain, who joined us in Dunmarra for the night where we stayed at a roadhouse campground.
Our first day was without incident, but by no means uneventful. Navigating out of the city with all of the other teams presented a host of challenges, since track time order does not correspond well with road speed. We passed several teams on the road toward the start of the day, and were passed by a few later in the morning. Mostly, we were passed by media cars, who would hover in the righthand lane hanging cameras out the window to photograph the solar car. World Solar Challenge officials frown on this behavior because it is clearly risky to be in the oncoming lane, so when we take media photos we pull off the road and let them drive past.
During the morning we hit just about every red light possible on the way out of the city, then entered hilly country and crested the steepest hill on the course around 10am. Arctan handled it like a champ and made it up no problem. Later, the Stuart Highway passed through a brush fire, with lots of smoke in the air and some flames visible on the left side of the road. Not great for charging the solar array when it’s so smoky!
We hit the first control stop in Katherine after about four hours of driving, joining all of the top teams around noon. It was very cool to check out Nuon, Twente, Tokai, and Michigan all array standing. In the afternoon, we pushed towards Dunmarra, where we stayed for the night. There are five teams clustered about an hour ahead of us, and four clustered right around us. We are solidly in the top ten Challenger class teams as of today, but it’s a crowded field, with all of us fairly close together and so far all running smooth races. We will see what day two brings!