"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
OK, so all we have left is hockey. Let's vist with another world-class sporting team from the University; UM Solar. They just unveiled their new car, Generation, that will be competing in the World Solar Challenge in October. The rules have changed and now each car has four wheels and the driver is off-set to the left. I believe this is because some teams experienced instability with the three-wheel layout. I will check with a former team member to see if he has any insight. Otherwise, enjoy what is over one year of exceptionally hard work.
The Block M on the rear deck is a nice touch.
UM Students have been developing the car, called “Generation,” for over a year in preparation for the 2013 World Solar Challenge – a week-long, 1,800-mile trek across the Australian continent in October. The WSC is held every other year. Generation is the first solar car to feature four wheels in more than a decade. It is the 12th vehicle developed by the U of M Solar Car Team since its inception in 1990.
Here are some links to main stream media. Certainly worh a read. As race week approaches, I'll try to get more information, and hope to keep up with each day's activities (even though it will be right in the middle of Football season). Go Blue.
For those of you who followed my "UM Solar - ASC" posts last week, this will be a little redundant. For those of you that clicked the links but were "tl;dr", here's your chance to read it all in one diary post (because you're patiently waiting for FOOTBAW season).
First and foremost, here are a couple of links to the UM Solar web site and the American Solar Challenge web site:
UM Solar: LINK
Let's meet the 2012 National Champions
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Troy, MI
Favorite Place in A2: The Blind Pig
Favorite Activity: Mountain Biking
Hometown: Novi, MI
Favorite Place in A2: The Big House
Favorite Activity: Skiing
Major: Electrical Engineering
Hometown: Commerce, MI
Favorite Place in A2: Lurie Fountain
Favorite Activity: Aerial Photography
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Hometown: Granger, IN
Favorite Place in A2: The Hands On Museum
Favorite Activity: Biking
Major: Computer Engineering
Hometown: Beachwood, OH
Favorite Place in A2: Yost Ice Arena
Favorite Activity: Hiking
Major: Computer Engineering
Hometown: Galesburg, MI
Favorite Place in A2: Diag
Favorite Activity: Astrophotography
Major: Computer Engineering
Hometown: St. Joseph, MI
Favorite Place in A2: No Thai Restaurant
Favorite Activity: Playing Saxophone
Major: Electrical Engineering
Hometown: Suzhou, China
Favorite Place in A2: North Quad Tower Room
Favorite Activity: Cooking
Major: Electrical Engineering
Hometown: Mumbai, India
Favorite Place in A2: Intramural Sports Building
Favorite Activity: Driving
Major: Aerospace Engineering
Hometown: Santa Monica, CA
Favorite Place in A2: Hill Auditorium
Favorite Activity: Playing the Viola
Major: Computer Engineering
Hometown: Mackinac Island, MI
Favorite Place in A2: The Arboretum
Favorite Activity: Flying Airplanes
Media and Operations
Head of Public Relations
Major: Natural Resources and the Environment
Hometown: Shelburne, VT
Favorite Place in A2: Kerry Town
Favorite Activity: Traveling
Head of Photography
Major: Art and Design
Hometown: Flint, MI
Favorite Place in A2: Michigan Theater
Favorite Activity: Tennis
Major: Industrial and Operations Engineering
Hometown: Beverly Hills, MI
Favorite Place in A2: Huron River
Favorite Activity: Water Polo
Hometown: Ann Arbor, MI
Favorite Place in A2: Zingerman's Roadhouse
Favorite Activity: Sailing
Vehicle Dynamics Specialist
Hometown: Midland, MI
Favorite Place in A2: Arb
Favorite Activity: Soccer
Major: Computer Science Engineering
Hometown: Shelby Township, MI
Favorite Place in A2: State Street
Favorite Activity: Jet Skiing
Hometown: Farmington Hills, MI
Favorite Place in A2: Roof of the Space Research Building
Favorite Activity: Golf
Major: Computer Engineering
Hometown: Lincolnshire, IL
Favorite Place in A2: Law Quad
Favorite Activity: Jiu Jitsu
Preliminaries; Formula Sun Grand Prix
The 2012 FSGP is history and UM Solar is your victor. A strong result from Iowa State promises an interesting American Solar Challenge. They're even talking a little smack:
The only trouble on the day was a 30-minute delay in the morning to double-check the car’s solar array. That allowed the University of Michigan to race to a 20-lap lead. “If we had started at the same time, we would be directly competitive with them,” Stumpges said. “That promises good things with this car.”
Stumpges said the Michigan team, winner of the past four races across America, is beginning to notice the team from Ames. Yes, Stumpges said. “We were neck and neck with Michigan a good part of the day.”
Here's the final results. The starting grid, for the ASC, is 1 - Quantum, 2 - Iowa State's Hyperion, 3 - Western Michigan and 4 - Illinois State.
Congratulations to Hyperion for setting the fastest lap of the '12 FSGP. The ASC rolls off tomorrow, Saturday, July 14, 2012. With showers and thunderstorms a possibility thru the upper Midwest, for the weekend, it may be interesting to see how things progress over the first three or four days of the race. It's also supposed to be hot next week and that may play into the final results as well. The Strategy Team as well as the Weather Team will play an integral part. Go Quantum, Go UM Solar, Go Blue.
Fastest Lap: Iowa State University: 2:18
The 2012 Formula Sun Grand Prix is complete!
Last updated on 7-12-2012 -15:00 Eastern. Each lap is 1.6 miles.
* Team Not Yet Inspected
Day 1 is in the history books and Quantum remains where it started; P1.
The Team was able to guide Quantum to the Day 1 finish line, in Erie, PA, just after 1 PM (1:08 PM EDT) local time.
Accoring to Crew Chief Ryan Mazur (I'm pretty sure that's Ryan in the video), they finished fifteen minutes head of Iowa State (followed by Minnesota, Western Michigan, MIT and Principia). Video courtesy of Furqan Nazeeri
At a control stop earlier on Day 1:
The ASC's web site doesn't seem to want to load so I cannot provide finish times but it appears that Quantum is running well and keeping the competition at bay. Nicely done UM Solar.
Day 2 is done and the result remains the same:
Checkpoint Arrival Times at Mansfield, OH
- Michigan 2:20pm
- Minnesota 4:01pm
- Principia 4:38pm
- CalSol 4:47pm
However, the route took some twists and turns:
Michigan got penalized 5 minutes for a non-affiliated "media" car "obstructing" traffic near Iowa State yesterday...so how are people supposed to watch the race?
Steven Hechtman confirms:
First stage times are up. Michigan leads Iowa by 9 minutes after receiving 5 minutes in penalties. Minnesota is 10 minutes behind Iowa (State).
The weather in
Ohio The Worst State Ever was not cooperating:
Racing in the rain. Here's where the Weather and Strategy teams earn their stripes. Weather will keep Strategy apprised of the current and approaching weather conditions. Strategy will determine how much electricity is in the batteries, how much electricity the solar cells are producing and how much electricity the motor is using. They adjust Quantum's speed accordingly so the car has the ability to continue on to the end of day control stop. It's tricky, involves lots of calculations and sometimes some luck. It's no secret these guys are good and the results speak for themselves.
Rumor has it Iowa state blew suspension in a curb and was pulled over for an hour and MIT spun out and hit a sign pole and will be trailering to Ann Arbor. Not sure if they will be making an attempt at repairs.
Steven Hechtman confirms:
Noticed on the live chat that Iowa State tracker was stationary for nearly an hour turning onto 11 near Ashtabula, OH. The explanation: @Team_PrISUm: Took a turn too wide on the interstate on ramp and hit a curb. This snapped the lower A-Arm which was replaced in under an hour.
What a shame for both Iowa State and MIT.
Quantum approaching Mansfield Ohio, in the sunshine, and the end of Day 2:
Charging batteries in Mansfield.
Video courtesy of Furqan Nazeeri
Quantum arrives at the Big House
Video courtesy of Furqan Nazeeri
UPDATE: Quantum has arrived at the Control Stop in K-zoo. Looks like a perfect day for solar car racing, a few puffy clouds but mostly clear. I would think they'll be close to the MI/IN border when they decide to stop for the day.
Day 3 is complete and Quantum enjoys a 3+ hour lead. Obviously, it was nice to be back in Ann Arbor. Even President Coleman came out to show her support.
Today, the Team is off to Lansing with a check point in Kalamazoo (Western Michigan). They will stop some place south of K-zoo in either Michigan or north central Indiana.
Here Quantum charges batteries at Black and Veatch:
Showing off at the Starting Line with a quick tire change:
After hitting a sign post, MIT was sporting some damage:
All fixed now:
ISU explains the damage to their car (from hitting a curb):
And, they're off!
All video courtesy of Furqan Nazeeri
UM Solar camped over night just outside of Logansport, IN. Things continue to go well and Quantum keeps increasing its lead. The Stage will end, this afternoon, at Illinois State University in Normal, IL. Here are the Day 4 stands thru the Kalamazoo Check Point:
Top 3 Overall:
Stage 3 current standings:
Last updated 7/17/12 – 21:10 Eastern. Times given as hh:mm:ss.
Quantum, aerial view:
Quantum is already on the move towards Normal, IL. The weather may be really variable today and I'm sure the plan is to get to the Stage Stop before the atmosphere heats up and begins to get unstable (rain, t-storms). They'll also want to get as much of a charge, in Normal, as possible (for tomorrow):
Cloudy but beautiful morning charge! Rolling out in 5 minutes (8:45 AM EDT)
UPDATE: a storm filled, gray day awaits the competitors as they traverse Indiana and Illinois, on Rt. 24, into Bloomington/Normal. Storms have already popped up and died down. This must be the reason UM Solar pushed all the way to Logansport. I'm guessing they'll want to get to IL St. and see if they can get a charge before the weather totally craps out.
UPDATE II: The Weather car has arrived at Illinois State (11:02 AM CDT). Quantum shouldn't be far behind.
UPDATE III: Hello Illinois! Number 6 out of 8 states, we're still leading! (11:15 AM CDT)
The weather doesn't look too bad in that picture. Welcome to the Land of Lincoln (and Corruption).
UPDATE IV: Quantum is first into Normal and charging (12:16 PM CDT):
An interesting day yesterday where the rich (Quantum) got richer and the rest fell further back. Quantum had a short run into Normal thanks to pushing on to Logansport, IN the previous day. This allowed them to get to the Stage Stop and recharge batteries while other teams fought the weather and heat, slowing them considerably. Teams that arrived late, in Normal, didn't have much of a chance to charge as the weather closed in. Minnesota suffered some battery/heat issues while Illinois State had a battery melt down (after it was out of the car - we'll get to that in a moment). After some serious overnight storms, in northen Illinois, the day looks clear for the run to La Crosse, WI. Quantum holds over a seven (7) hour lead while the next four competitors are within five (5) hours of each other.
Quantum pulling a charge after arrving, @ 1:13 EDT, in Normal, IL.
Iowa State rolled in 1 hour and 45 minutes later.
CalSol (Berkeley) was third in at 5:02 EDT.
While other teams continue to roll in, Quuantum continues charging.
Images, above, courtesy of Ethan Lardner
Charles (Chuck) S. Hutchins has had a consistent presence on the U of M Solar Car Team for 22 years. Accompanying the Team on every race since the running of Maize and Blue in 1993, Chuck has maintained cultural and technical continuity that has motivated generations of Wolverines working in Ann Arbor. Chuck’s experience as an engineer (BSE MEAM ’57) and as an entrepreneur (co-founder of Manufacturing Data Systems Inc.) have proved priceless in the development of the 2011 vehicle, Quantum.
Thanks Chuck! Thanks a lot!
Stage 3 Board (after Stage Close):
Images, above, courtesy of Furqan Nazeeri
An overnight battery malfunction may knock Illinois State out of the ASC: LINK Let's hope Illinois State can figure out a way to continue.
It looks like a really nice morning in Normal. CalSol is charging. Quantum lurks in the background, also charging. Skies to the northwest look good.
Results after the Normal Stage Stop:
|Team # and Name||Ann Arbor Start 7/17||Kalamazoo Arrival 7/17||Normal Finish 7/18||Penalty Time||Stage 3 Elapsed Time|
|2 – Michigan||09:00:00||13:02:09||13:14:15||00:12:00||12:26:15|
|9 – Iowa State||09:03:00||13:29:33||14:57:33||00:10:00||14:02:33|
|254 – CalSol||09:04:00||15:08:08||17:02:08||00:02:00||16:04:08|
|256 – Oregon State||09:05:00||14:30:12||17:18:44||00:12:00||16:30:44|
|32 – Principia||09:02:00||14:15:17||17:57:00||00:15:00||17:12:00|
|35 – Minnesota||09:01:00||13:35:20||Trailer||04:01:03||22:01:03|
|20 – Western Michigan||09:06:00||14:26:34||Trailer||06:18:45||24:18:45|
|55 – Montreal||09:05:00||Trailer||10:46:39||28:46:39|
|5 – Illinois State||09:06:00||Trailer||11:33:27||29:33:27|
|28 – New Paltz||09:07:00||Trailer||12:12:09||30:12:09|
|4 – MIT||09:09:00||14:22:40||Trailer||21:29:33||39:29:33|
Quantum's penalites involve fan vehicles coming too close to the race cars or impeding support vehicles and/or traffic. I am unsure of the penalites for the other teams but wouldn't be surprised if they were for something similar.
A little hardware for winning Stage 3:
I'll do my best to keep everyone updated during the day. Go Quantum!
UPDATE: Hello Wisconsin!
Today we began Stage 4 (Day 5) of the American Solar Challenge with about a 7 hour lead. Quantum cruised through cornfields and into the Verona, WI stage stop in the mid afternoon (2:53 PM CDT - Ed.). We will begin tomorrow near the Wisconsin Dells. Check out the recap of Day 5 below and stay tuned on twitter tomorrow for another day of racing.
Iowa State paced Quantum with the intent of winning the Stage (I think). They stayed within spitting distance until just about the Illinois/Wisconsin border when they suddenly slowed dramtaically. There didn't seem to be anything wrong with their car other than consumming too many electrons too quickly (my speculation)? Quantum continuned on and turned an interesting day into another Victor's March.
UM Solar Tweet:
Set up camp and had a great team dinner! Getting ready for another day of ASC 2012 ...but first we need some sleep
CalSol: An electric vehicle plug in! At the University of Wisconsin Madison.
Hey Boys, that's cheating.
CalSol is charging with Iowa St. this morning at a park and ride. Great sun today!
Other then CalSol and Iowa St. camping, together, at a park-and-ride, I have no information on Principia, Oregon St. or Minnesota. =( Sorry.
Updated results courtesy of the ASC
|Team # and Name||Ann Arbor Start 7/17||Kalamazoo Arrival 7/17||Normal Finish 7/18||Stage 3 Penalty Time||Stage 3 Elapsed Time||Total Race Elapsed Time|
|2 – Michigan||09:00:00||13:02:09||13:14:15||00:12:00||12:26:15||27:12:39|
|9 – Iowa State||09:03:00||13:29:33||14:57:33||00:10:00||14:02:33||34:28:32|
|32 – Principia||09:02:00||14:15:17||17:57:00||00:15:00||17:12:00||37:01:47|
|254 – CalSol||09:04:00||15:08:08||17:02:08||00:02:00||16:04:08||37:11:02|
|256 – Oregon State||09:05:00||14:30:12||17:18:44||00:12:00||16:30:44||39:34:15|
|35 – Minnesota||09:01:00||13:35:20||Trailer||04:01:03||22:01:03||39:58:28|
|5 – Illinois State||09:06:00||Trailer||11:33:27||29:33:27||59:43:08|
|20 – Western Michigan||09:06:00||14:26:34||Trailer||06:18:45||24:18:45||65:23:11|
|28 – New Paltz||09:07:00||Trailer||10:03:03||28:03:03||67:45:54|
|55 – Montreal||09:05:00||Trailer||10:46:39||28:46:39||68:33:09|
|4 – MIT||09:09:00||14:22:40||Trailer||21:49:33||39:49:33||92:26:44|
The weather appears to have improved with clearing skies in central and western Wisconsin. The target today is La Crosse, WI and the end of Stage 4. As always you can visit the UM Solar web site: LINK and/or ASC: LINK. And, I'll do my best to provide updates as the ASC wraps up tomorrow. Go Blue!
MU Solar Tweet: Good Morning! One more day until we reach the finish line - Headed to La Crosse, WI today!
Timing board in La Crosse, WI, Quantum ~50 miles out.
Almost there! Approaching La Crosse, WI for the end of Stage 4.
Quantum into La Crosse, WI at 12:43:47 PM CDT
Principia is in, Iowa State 25 miles out, then CalSol. MIT might be in front of Iowa St.
Today the team finished the 4th stage of the American Solar Challenge. Quantum continued to run well and we were able to increase our lead to over 10 hours. Tomorrow is the last day of the race and we expect to cross the finish line in St. Paul between 12-1:30p. Check out highlights from Day 6 below.
I see the video included the "car carry" over construction and into the gravel control stop parking lot, in Verona WI. Also, you think it's easy to get in/out of Quantum? I'm guessing no. =D
At the end of the day, Quantum picks up more time and expands their lead to almost eleven (11) hours. The running joke during the CIL (yes, there's a CIL for each day of the ASC) yesterday was how far Quantum could be pushed, incur penalties and still win the race. I think the consensus was about 90 minutes. With 150 miles to St. Paul, and the finish line, there isn't a lot of racing left to be done. However, the weather this morning is supposedly cloudy. The ASC is saying storms are forecast for the Twin Cities. It could be an interesting day, nonetheless. Iowa State is still suffering from trying to stay with Quantum on Wednesday. They limped in to La Crosse giving up an hour and ten minutes to Principia. It's possible there may be a change of second place when all is said and done.
image courtesy of Ethan Lardner
Iowa State rolls in 4 minutes before CalSol (Berkeley) and 70 minutes after Principia.
image courtesy of Ethan Lardner
ASC: Thunder and lightening in St. Paul. Not the thing we wanted to wake up to.
image courtesy of ASC
Illinois State: This morning is rather overcast but we aren't concerned because we ended yesterday
image courtesy of ISU
The Breakfast of Champions (of the West):
image courtesy of Matt Goldstein
Stage 4 Preliminary Results:
|Team # and Name||Normal Start 7/19||Verona Arrival 7/19||LaCrosse Finish 7/20||Stage 4 Penalty Time||Stage 4 Elapsed Time||Total Elapsed Time|
|2 – Michigan||09:00:00||14:23:10||12:43:47||00:16:00||11:59:47||39:12:26|
|9 – Iowa State||09:01:00||15:22:27||16:26:49||00:10:00||15:36:49||50:05:21|
|32 – Principia||09:02:00||16:21:44||15:16:31||00:02:00||14:18:31||51:20:18|
|254 – CalSol||09:03:00||16:31:04||16:30:46||00:03:00||15:33:46||52:44:48|
|35 – Minnesota||09:05:00||16:57:01||17:58:52||0:02:00||17:00:52||56:59:20|
|256 – Oregon State||09:04:00||Trailer||13:11:09||31:11:09||70:45:24|
|5 – Illinois State||09:06:00||Trailer||11:54:57||29:54:57||89:38:05|
|20 – Western Michigan||09:04:00||Trailer||14:07:57||32:07:57||97:31:08|
|55 – Montreal||09:05:00||Trailer||10:58:57||28:58:57||97:32:06|
|28 – New Paltz||09:08:00||Trailer||TBD||18:00:00||85:45:54|
|4 – MIT||09:10:00||15:33:23||16:04:52||00:56:00||16:00:52||108:27:36|
Last updated 7/20/12 – 23:37 Central. Times given as hh:mm:ss.
La Crosse is near the bottom of the precipitation and the red area, to the left, is where the Twin Cities are. Gonna be a rough day. Go Quantum!
Quantum is off:
image courtesy of Ethan Lardner
Quantum seems to be having issues with cockpit condesation inside the canopy. They've stopped twice to clear it so the driver has a clear(er) view. Principia and Minnesota are fighting for the Stage win. Iowa State has passed Qunatum as well. UM Solar seems content to stay out of the fray and cruise home courtesy of their big lead. The Team recently tweeted that the sun has made an appearance but hills and more threatening weather may make the going slow. Quantum's ETA has been revised to between 1:30 and 2:30 CDT.
Minnesota crossed the line at 12:58:57. CalSol 2nd at 01:28:17. Principia in at 01:31:11
Quantum should be in soon.
ASC: iwoa [sic] got in at 13:50:42. michigan at 14:23:55
UM Solar: Add another one to the list... here's to winning our 7th National Championship! Proud to be bringing the trophy back to A2
As Brady Hoke would say “This is Michigan, for God’s sakes.” We just won our 7th National Championship! Thanks to our fans, alumni and supporters we could not have done it without you. Go Blue!!!
On July 21, 2012, we not only won our 7th National Championship, but we finished the race with the largest margin of victory in the history of the American Solar Challenge. We are proud to bring home the trophy to Ann Arbor for a 4th consecutive time, however, we are not stopping here! Believe it or not, before this race even began, we were already working on the next car. We know it was our fans, alumni, and sponsors that drove us to the finish line. If you are interested in joining the 2013 solar car team as we prepare for the World Solar Challenge, please contact us about sponsorship or make a personal donation.
As you can imagine, information is a little sparse on a Sunday morning. But, here's what I do know. The weather, unfortunately, wasn't the best to end the race. Las Crosse, WI had cloud cover and St. Paul had thunderstorms. To top it off, Quantum experienced fogging of their canopy, making visibility even worse than it was already (thanks to the light rain). In an effort to be safe, they stopped a few times to clear the condensation. It was apparent that Principia and Minnesota wanted, badly, to win the last Stage. In an effort to steer clear of any potential hazards, Quantum hung back and allowed those two to duke it out for the Stage win. With the stops, Iowa State passed Quantum as well. However, the total margin of victory was still 10 hours and 19 minutes, an ASC record.
Quantum attempting to complete their charge, Saturday morning, La Crosse, WI.
image courtesy of Diane Thach
Parental support along the route into St. Paul, MN
image courtesy of Diane Thach
Quantum entering Minnesota
image courtesy of Diane Thach
Last updated 7/21/12 – 23:37 Central. Times given as hh:mm:ss.
UM Solar now looks forward to the World Solar Challenge in 2013. They will have a new car to chase the World Championship. I wish them the best of luck in their endeavor. Go Blue! Go UM Solar!
The Wilson Cup has returned to Ann Arbor:
“Race Day 5/6”
By Matt Nixon
21 October 2011 – Adelaide, Australia
Word’s out: America’s #1 solar car team is from the University of Michigan.
They took third in the 2011 World Solar Challenge. As in the 2009 event the team from Japan’s Tokai University took first and from the Netherland’s, Nuon took second. Déjà vu all over again?
Yes and no. The WSC is an event of the sort where each running is unique and anything can happen. I could go on about the details; brushfires, high winds, torn fairings – but those have all been born out by now. Let’s drill down into the emotions involved.
Nervous parents, excited cheerleaders, hand wringing U-M Solar alums and anticipatory media paced in the drizzle, jockeying for a position and the perfect view. All of us waiting to catch sight of the flashing lights atop the lead support vehicle.
Clutching hope like grim death, we were beyond eager to see our heroes finish what they’d started years ago. Yesterday, running on ozone and the team’s sheer force of will, Michigan’s Quantum rolled across the finish line in the nick of time.
I won’t spin it; there was something decidedly anticlimactic about the finish. None of us could put our finger on the feelings we were experiencing in the moment. It wasn’t disappointment. Certainly there was some of that because everyone wants to win. But what they’d accomplished was nothing to be dismissed as a loss.
Relief? There was loads of that. Our team was safe. No one was injured to any significant extent. Banged up to be sure – but nothing that time and rest can’t heal.
Pride? Yes, we were all proud of our team. They performed like champions leaving everything on this most unusual field of battle. Still, there was just nothing of gravity to be said. We mustered an awkward and hoarse Hail to the Victors.
Yet something in that moment felt like the severing of the strings that had been keeping us all connected during the 1,800-mile odyssey from Darwin to Adelaide. It was like helium slowly escaping a balloon. The adventure was over and we were all descending back down to earth.
When I got to my hotel room I couldn’t bring myself to write a single line. I just didn’t have the words. The closest I could come to a descriptor was confusion. What had I witnessed? It was something profound, every fiber of my body resonated with vibrations but what was it?
I thought about it as I washed the red Outback earth from my aching body. Walking the streets Adelaide late that night, alone I pondered. Where was my heart? Where was my head?
And then it struck me like boxer’s blow to solar plexus: I missed them.
I’m in a beautiful city, staying in a nice hotel and I have every comfort (that I went without while Outback) within easy reach. But I would trade it all to be back in the dirt with the team for just another day or two. No hyperbole, I would have died a completed man out there.
This was my tribe and now we lay scattered about by the four winds.
If ever again I’m gifted with a similar experience it won’t be anything like what I’d just gone through with them. And it wasn’t until the final night, prior to the last day of our race, that some of the quieter members of the team finally engaged me in discussion.
Santosh Kumar (the head strategist) asked me a question. Whoa. This man’s mind is made from the clockwork of the god’s and he had a question for me?
“Matt, what have you found to be the best thing about Australia?” he asked.
Without hesitation I replied, “Watching you guys work together.” No matter how awed I may be, I am not one to pay lip service to anyone. My statement was pure truth.
I’ve been humbled to witness the way this team operates. I’ve learned something about teamwork, collaboration and the ability to harness the passion that, when people are put under extreme pressure, often bubbles over into negative emotions.
Sitting back I remarked that under every situation they’d found themselves facing, they always seemed to be so calm. Calm. Even when moving at speeds that warped my perception. They problem-solved with an even-keeled coolness that just can’t be captured in words or pictures. It had to be felt. To have experienced it, I am thankful beyond expression.
Santosh chuckled, “Well, we just deal with the problems and keep moving forward. What you’re not seeing are some of the fireworks that go off when we pile back into the support vehicles.”
Well, that’s really it, isn’t it? Fix what needs to be fixed. So that Quantum can get back on course solve what needs to be solved – and then you can let out the steam. It’s simplicity itself but somewhere along the line we can forget that’s how winning is done. You must remember; a lot of these men and one very special woman aren’t even old enough to legally enjoy a beer.
With all of our egos, insecurities and human frailties it’s easy to lose sight of this when you see full-on grown-ups who can’t behave like civil human beings. Still, this team of youngsters could be trusted get you through hell and back. And in a sense (if you know the Outback) they did that very thing.
This morning when I arrived at Victoria Square and found the three winning teams joyfully splashing about in the fountain (appropriately named the “Three Rivers Fountain” taking its namesake from the three rivers, the Torrens, the Onkaparinga and the Murray – all of which feed Adelaide most of its fresh water) I found my writer’s inspiration renewed. Competitors, now comrades, swapped jerseys and reveled in the joie de vivre that the World Solar Challenge and the fountain so adequately represent.
When they emerged from the waters, I asked some of the individual team members how they were feeling. Not surprisingly it was Team Manager Rachel Kramer who put a fine point on what I was seeing.
“All of the bad feelings just melted away the minute we jumped into the fountain,” said Rachel.
My heart swelled like a torrent about to burst a dam. It was in that moment that I finally got it. It was through their smiles that I understood my own emotions. I was witnessing the stuff of legend.
Celebrations at the official finish line at Victoria Square in Adelaide where #3 University of Michigan’s Quantum solar car arrived on Friday, October 21, 2011 during the World Solar Challenge race across Australia. All photos courtesy of Marcin Szczepanski, Multimedia Content Producer/College of Engineering, U-M
U-M’s Blaine Riley, head of sourcing, celebrates at the official finish line where #3 University of Michigan’s Quantum solar cars arrived on Friday, October 21, 2011.
Always smiling and a volcano of energy, U-M’s solar car biggest supporter and cheerleader Charles S. Hutchins sports a University of Michigan beret at the official finish line at Victoria Square. [Ed. - A lot of the support directed toward the team is courtesy of Mr. Hutchins. He is certainly one of the reasons the team is a HUGE success. "Volcano of energy" is an apt description. Thank you Sir!]
Shoes left after jumping into the fountain at Victoria Square where U-M, Nuon and Tokai University solar car team members celebrated at the official finish line
U-M, Nuon and Tokai University solar car teams celebrate together after exchanging jerseys at the official finish line at Victoria Square’s fountain in Adelaide.
Link to the celebration video. Watch the team sing 'The Victors' in the Three Rivers Fountain! Click here
Thanks for following along. As before, I'll be reading thru the comments and will do my best to answer questions or find answers for you. The American Solar Challenge will be held next Summer. I'll be happy to "cover" that event as well. Go Blue!
World Solar Challenge - Day5
Iconic wind mill, so symbolic of the Australian outback, towers over Glen Dambo, a control stop where the team spends the night on day four of the World Solar Challenge competition in Australia on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011.
University of Michigan’s Quantum pulled over on the side of the road to deal with a missing faring (wheel cover) that was blown away by the strong wind. At the end of the day and after a series of technical issues, Quantum fell 1.5 hour behind Challenger and an hour behind Nuna6. It’s day four at at the World Solar Challenge competition in Australia on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 The cars crossed over to South Australia from Northern Territory this morning.
Cole Witte works on fixing the problem after University of Michigan’s Quantum pulled over on the side of the road to deal with a missing faring (wheel cover) that was blown away by the strong wind. Today was supposed to be the day of a big push on the side of the U-M’s team that planned on overtaking Nuna 6 and maybe even getting close to the #1 Tokai University’s Challenger. Challenger was 30 minutes ahead of both Nuna 6 and Quantum at the end of the previous day. At the end of the day and after a series of technical issues, Quantum fell 1.5 hour behind Challenger and an hour behind Nuna6. It’s day four at at the World Solar Challenge competition in Australia on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 The cars crossed over to South Australia from Northern Territory this morning.
Gerald Chang (left) and Cole Witte work on fixing the problem after University of Michigan’s Quantum pulled over on the side of the road to deal with a missing faring (wheel cover) that was blown away by the strong wind. Today was supposed to be the day of a big push on the side of the U-M’s team that planned on overtaking Nuna 6 and maybe even getting close to the #1 Tokai University’s Challenger. Challenger was 30 minutes ahead of both Nuna 6 and Quantum at the end of the previous day. At the end of the day and after a series of technical issues, Quantum fell 1.5 hour behind Challenger and an hour behind Nuna6. It’s day four at at the World Solar Challenge competition in Australia on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 The cars crossed over to South Australia from Northern Territory this morning.
A quiet, sad and frustrated but also somehow relaxed mood spreads over the U-M solar car team as they realize their dream of the 1st place at the World Solar Challenge may be unreachable this year due to broken faring (wheel cover) on the car. Daily team meeting. Day four at at the World Solar Challenge competition in Australia on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011.
U-M solar car is getting close to the finish line in Adelaide after it crossed Australian continent in 5 days. It’s Thursday, October 20th and the last day of the World Solar Challenge race.
U-M solar car approaches the end of the timed route outside of Adelaide in the World Solar Challenge race across Australia on Thursday, October 20, 2011.
U-M solar car team members celebrate winning the third place in the World Solar Challenge race across Australia as Rachel Kramer touches the head of the driver Ryan Mazur just outside of Adelaide. Formal crossing of the finish line will be the next day.
A faring that fell off the U-M solar car hit the cockpit near the driver’s head leaving a mark there on the second-to-last day of the World Solar Challenge in Australia. The accident effectively ruined the U-M solar car team’s chances to win gold in the race.
After five days on the road, U-M solar car team members celebrate winning the third place in the World Solar Challenge race across Australia. The end of the timed route was just outside of Adelaide on Thursday, October 20, 2011. It’s a bitter-sweet day for the team who have come third in four WSC races before. This year, the team was really hoping to win. Formal crossing of the finish line will be the next day.
After 5 days, 1800 miles, brush fires, dust storms, heavy winds, rain, and extreme temperature swings, Quantum finished 3rd in the Veolia World Solar Challenge.
It was an extremely close race, as for 3 days we kept pace with 1st place Tokai, and 2nd place Nuon. To put this in perspective, we camped out within 1 KM of Nuon 3 nights in a row. Unfortunately, heavy cross winds caused technical issues with the fairing mechanism, requiring repairs on the side of the road. Tokai and Nuon, spent zero time for roadside repairs, which was a key factor in the race outcome.
Further followup, regarding the race outcome, will be posted in the coming days.
We look forward to celebrating in Victoria Square with the other top teams tomorrow morning. We are all proud of our accomplishments, especially knowing that we are the first US team to win 2 consecutive top 3 finishes.
Through a smoldering brush fire, past wind-shearing road trains, across the Australian continent, the University of Michigan’s Quantum was the first American car to finish the World Solar Challenge today. The Solar Car team placed third overall in the international competition.
No other U.S. team has had back-to-back top-three World Solar Challenge finishes.
After driving for 35 hours and 33 minutes over five days, the U-M team crossed the end-of-timing line in Angle Vale, South Australia at 3:55 p.m. race time (2:25 a.m. U.S. ET). They are spending the night there. In the morning they will drive the remaining 20 miles to the ceremonial finish line in Adelaide’s Victoria Square. [Ed. - similar to the Tour de France, no racing on the last day]
“It was an incredibly close race, especially due to the unexpected elements such as the brush fire which delayed the race, dust storms, major cloud cover at the end of the race, and the ultra reliable cars of Nuon and Tokai,” said Chris Hilger, the team’s business director.
With an average speed of 56 mph, Japan’s Tokai University finished first. The Netherlands’ Nuon took second.
U-M’s Quantum, which averaged 52 mph, kept pace with the leaders for the first day, said Santosh Kumar, the team’s head strategist and engineering director.
On the second day, officials stopped the race because of a brush fire. All three teams had a unique mid-race opportunity to fully charge their batteries. When they hit the road again on Day 3, brush was still smoking on the side of the road. Clouds and rain were forecast, and the team drove conservatively to prepare for it, Kumar said. But Tokai didn’t. They extended their lead.
“At the beginning of the fourth day, we launched a counter attack, hurtling down the Stuart Highway at 64 mph attempting to reel Tokai in,” Kumar said.
The team was just three minutes from overtaking the second place Nuon when a strong gust of wind ripped the right wheel fairing from the chassis. The students made roadside repairs while the other two teams pulled ahead. By the time they were back on the Stuart Highway, though, Michigan was 30 minutes behind the leading teams.
En route to the next control stop, “bad luck hit Quantum again with just the wrong combination of cross winds and road train wakes to pull the (fairing) off a second time,” race manager Rachel Kramer wrote in a guest blog post on Life @ Michigan.
A road train is a long tractor-trailer, and in this year’s race, teams had to contend with several carrying wide loads.
“We never gave up the chase,” Kumar said.
The team “crawled” across the finish, according to their final race tweet. They had emptied their battery trying.
“We’re really proud,” said Caitlin Sadler, the team’s head of public relations. “We built a great car. They raced an amazing race and they’ve really held up the tradition.”
U-M placed third in the World Solar Challenge in 2009 as well. This is the fifth time in the race’s 20-year history that the U-M team has placed third. Reigning national champions, the team has finished first in the North American Solar Challenge three times in a row and six times total.
During the past two years of intense preparation, the team shaved 200 pounds off its 2009 car by weighing the vehicle bolt by bolt and streamlining nearly every part. They improved its aerodynamics by an estimated 30 percent. They tested in practice races across Michigan and in Australia. And they strategized with computer scientists and sailboat racers to come up with more accurate weather forecasting models.
So, congratulations to Tokai University on defending their 2009 Championship. And, congratulations to Nuon for a strong second place finish. While I'm sure the team is disppointed, there is no shame in finishing third to those two teams. Encountering a 'trash tornado', down under, seems to be par for the course this week. Plans are already being formulated for changes to Quantum and the foundations for the successor to Quantum. I plan to follow up with 'closing ceremonies' as well as shedding some light on the alums that have firmly planted the seeds of this program. A BIG thanks to Diane Thach, of UMSolar, who provided a lot of background info. Also another BIG thanks to Marcin Szczepanski, Multimedia Content Producer/College of Engineering, U-M. He provided all of the images you've seen (and many you have not).
Thanks for reading and following along. I read through the comments so if you have questions, feel free to ask. I'll do my best to answer or get answers for you.
Race Day 4
Courtesy of Matt Nixon & Rachel Kramer
19 October 2011 – The Outback
I’ve been embedded with the University of Michigan Solar Car Team, bringing you updates from the Outback. They are competing in the World Solar Challenge. Tonight we have a report written by the team’s (always in motion) manager Rachel Kramer. Enjoy!
And as always, you can keep up with the WSC here
DAY 4 – EVENING UPDATE
By Rachel Kramer
Approx. 1:00 PM – Michigan pulled into the “Opal Inn” control stop in Coober Pedy. As the first stop after crossing into South Australia, Coober Pedy is absolutely in the middle of nowhere. The town’s defining feature is the fact that it is surrounded by opal mines, which result in a landscape covered in hills of sand and red dirt that have been taken out of the ground during the search for opals. The trip from Kulgera, where Michigan camped last night, was nearly 400 km and the longest leg of the race.
Winds were extremely strong today, as the team discovered about 100 km short of the Coober Pedy stop. A giant gust of wind was able to open and remove one of the windowed fairings that typically cover Quantum’s front wheels and open only when the car is making a sharp turn. These “windows” are fairly large parts, so spares are not kept in the main caravan and the team had to wait several minutes for the semi trailer to catch up with a spare. Once a new fairing was placed on Quantum they were back on the road, but the gap between Michigan, Nuon and Tokai had widened to be more than 30 minutes between teams.
On the trip from Coober Pedy to the next control stop in Glendambo, bad luck hit Quantum again with just the wrong combination of cross winds and road train wakes to pull the window off a second time. This time the team was ready and made the fix more quickly, but significant time was still lost on the side of the road today.
We will finish Day 4 by camping in Glendambo, a town which proudly advertises a population of 22,000 sheep, 2,000,000 flies and 30 humans. Anything can happen in the last 591 km of the race, but we know we’ll need some luck to go our way tomorrow in order to beat Michigan’s previous records and place higher than third in the world.
Photos courtesy of Marcin Szczepanski, Multimedia Content Producer/College of Engineering, U-M
Early morning on day four of the World Solar Challenge. University of Michigan’s Quantum and Neon’s Nuna 6 charge their solar batteries in what has become twice daily ritual in Australia. October 19th, 2011 The cars are about to cross over to South Australia from Northern Territory this morning.
The mood soured among the team as the University of Michigan’s Quantum pulled over on the side of the road to deal with a missing faring (wheel cover) that was blown away by the strong wind. Today was supposed to be the day of a big push on the side of the U-M’s team that planned on overtaking Nuna 6 and maybe even getting close to the #1 Tokai University’s Challenger that was 30 minutes ahead of both Nuna 6 and Quantum at the end of the previous day. It’s day four at at the World Solar Challenge competition in Australia on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 The cars crossed over to South Australia from Northern Territory this morning.
Arrival Time at Coober Pedy
- Tokai 11:40
- Nuon 12:16
- Michigan 13:02
Next Control Stop: Glendambo (Times are UM Arrival, Darwin Time)
- Katherine 12:15 D1
- Dunmarra 16:20 D1
- Tennant Creek 11:36 D2
- Wauchope - Special 13:21 D2
- Ti Tree - Special 10:32 D3
- Alice Springs 13:15 D3
- Kulgera 16:41 D3
- Coober Pedy 13:02 D4
- Glendambo +254km D4
- Port Augusta +286km
"Status: Driving, en route to Glendambo. Holding P3. Trailing Nuon heavily due to 40 min. Fairing repairs." - Arrrggghhhh!!!! Angry UMSolar Hating Winds! Damn you.
For those of you that aren't quite sure what the "fairing" issue might be, I'll see if I can illustrate it. If you look closely at the image below, you'll see the (black) outline of a 'window' in the fairing (the fairing covers the wheel). The top, horizontal line can be seen just above the GM, Ford & IMRA decals. The left outline can be seen just to the right of the Roush and Vector decals. The right outline is the hardest to see, just to the left of the #2. Strong winds opened up the leading edge of the 'window' and was strong enough to rip the cover off, twice. These windows are in place so that the wheels can turn the vehicle. Otherwise the fairings would restrict the wheels and the turning radius would be about the same as an aircraft carrier.
Day3 Morning Update courtesy of Rachel Kramer
4:45 AM – some of the team woke up in our large maize tents to the sound of a drum accompanied by a soft pipe or whistle. We weren’t out of the tent fast enough to investigate whether the music was being made by the local Aborigine people who live in Wachope, where we were stopped the afternoon before due to brush fires farther down the road. The music was soon drowned out by the sound of speakers blaring from our competitor Nuon’s camp just on the other side of the parking lot.
This morning felt something like the stage stops we see in the American Solar Challenge. It’s very unusual to have the top three teams in WSC camping at the same place, charging next to one another and leaving just minutes apart in the morning.
As we set out 30 minutes ahead of Quantum and her caravan (which left the makeshift control point 13 minutes after Tokai and 5 minutes after Nuon) in the weather vehicle, we drove toward the smoky haze that had been sitting to the south and west of camp since we arrived yesterday afternoon. It would be less than a two hour drive to Ti Tree, where officials were waiting with another makeshift control stop.
After about 45 minutes we were approaching Barrow Creek, where there was originally supposed to be a stop. Last night we were told that that stop was cancelled because the tiny town was surrounded by the wild brush fires and some of the buildings may even be on fire. The grey-brown haze became thicker, blowing dense smoke across the road at some points where the fires were close. Right before reaching Barrow Creek there were fires burning right next to the road and a large tree was in flames less than 10 meters from the left side of the road. The wind was blowing toward the east, so some of the flames licked the left side of the pavement and we had to drive by cautiously on the opposite side of the road.
Some pictures from Day3. All photos by Marcin Szczepanski, Multimedia Content Producer/College of Engineering, U-M
U-M’s Quantum (left) and Nuon’s Nuna 6 charge batteries early morning on day three at a gas station/restaurant called Wauchope. A day earlier the cars were forced to stop there and spend the night after the area down the road was closed due to bush fire. World Solar Challenge competition on Tuesday, October 18th, 2011
Local authorities stop the Michigan solar car for a couple minutes because visibility on the road was reduced to almost zero as heavy smoke from burning bush engulfed the area on day three of the World Solar Challenge competition on Tuesday, October 18th, 2011. This morning, Quantum stayed a bit behind the Challenger and Nuna 6, partly because of that stop, with Challenger increasing the distance to 25 minutes.
Michigan solar car attracted a small crowd at the control spot in Alice Springs. We are exactly at the half way point of the race. 1500 km out of 3000 km between Darwin and Adelaide.
U-M solar car team charges solar car batteries at the morning of day three of the World Solar Challenge.
umsolar has an "embedded reporter" with the team. The following are Matt Nixon's thoughts at the end of Day3
It’s been a demanding and intense day for the participants in the World Solar Challenge. The Tokai University team from Tokyo has approximately 30 minutes on Noun’s Nuna6; the second position vehicle. The U-M Solar team is in a tight 3rd position for the third day in a row.
This morning, Michigan left Waughup Hotel shortly after 8:13 a.m. It wasn’t long before the U-M team found themselves smack in the middle of the brush fires that the day prior suspended the race’s progress. After a brief roadside chat with the local constabulary, Quantum was blowing through the smoke and back on their way in pursuit of the leaders.
We plunged deeper south into the Outback. The trees grew shorter and shorter with each passing mile until the caravan penetrating the Outback proper. The land is markedly harsher with each mile taken south toward Adelaide. As of this evening Nuon and Michigan came to a stop at the Kulgera Roadhouse/Hotel.
At this location we’re just a few dozen miles past the midway point of this brutal event. It has become clear to me that this is much more of an endurance race than I’d anticipated. Perhaps not so remarkably, the team’s become more efficient at setting-up camp and preparing Quantum for the following day’s leg of the journey. Many of us may actually get a decent night’s sleep tonight.
Spirits are as high as the team’s expectations. Tomorrow promises to be a very exciting day in what has become a very close race. Many of the official WSC observers have remarked that this is the most exciting race in many years.
And still we continue to attract observers along the route. Even the New York Times is paying close attention at this stage. But it is the locals that bring the widest smiles to the faces of U-M Solar team members. Tonight a large family stopped by the site as the Quantum was being stored. The children were fascinated with the cars and the drivers. They proudly showed us some of the business cards they’d collected from the Tokai squad.
Another interesting difference in this 2011 race is the camaraderie and sharing amongst the teams. Each morning, blasting from their premium sound system, the Nuon team surprises us with some carefully selected anthem that celebrates America. This is a fun event and with the gorgeous Australian backdrop, this has to be one of the most unique competitions in the world.
Even though the Tokai team has a substantial lead on Michigan (as well as the Nuon team hailing from the Netherlands) it is by no means an insurmountable lead. Anything can happen out here in this rugged land and from what I’ve seen, it probably will.
One constant, looming obstacle is the weather. Several meteorologists are predicting that a front will move into the path of the WSC racers as they proceed south to Adelaide. This is going to play a large part in determining who reaches the finish line first. While Tokai has a pretty good lead (~30 minutes), anything can happen when the clouds roll in. The leaders are just past the halfway point (1500km to go). The race is far from over. Stay tuned...