UMSolar: Day 3

Submitted by Bronco648 on October 18th, 2011 at 9:34 AM

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...



October 18th, 2011 at 11:47 AM ^

Thanks for posting these updates!  This is one of the great services of MGoBlog - I probably would not have the time to access this kind of information without your Diary entries and I thank you for sharing with us.


October 18th, 2011 at 1:20 PM ^

Thanks for the kind words. I do come back and read the comments and/or update posts. So, if you have any questions/comments, feel free to post them. I'll do my best to answer and/or comply.

October 18th, 2011 at 1:35 PM ^

A link to the competition website, or does the competition website get updated throughout.? I'm interested in additional general information about the whole event.   Also interested whether there are overall standing posted anywhere, and to see how those change day-to-day. 

Philip A. Duey

October 18th, 2011 at 1:37 PM ^

I had the privilege of rooming with two members of the Solar Car team in back-to-back years a couple years ago.  Good to see we're still in the thick of it! Good luck and Go Blue!


October 18th, 2011 at 10:46 PM ^

Question:  What has been the typical margin of victory in this event?  Seconds?  Minutes?  Hours?

How big a lead is 30 mins halfway thru the race?  Is it being down a touchdown at halftime, or is it being down 40-10?