Over 30 teams will compete in The Veolia World Solar Challenge, which begins on October 16th in Darwin. The teams will race 1800 miles through the Australian Outback. Throughout the race the teams will be entirely self-sufficient and will camp in the outback during the four days of the race.
If the University if Michigan Solar Car Team wins this race, they will be the first American Student Team to win the World Solar Challenge.
The time difference between Darwin, Northern Territories, Australia and the Eastern Time Zone (Michigan) is +13:30 hours (+14:30 hours for CT, +15:30 hours for MT and +16:30 hours for Pacific). That +30 minutes seemed a little odd to me, too.
I've been in contact with Max Ross, one of the drivers of the 2005 car, Momentum. He provided a little insight as to what the team will experience in the next few days:
Scrutineering will entail detailed checks of every section of the car. On the mechanical side, we present our computer simulations showing that each structural component (A-arms, bolts, the carbon fiber frame...) can withstand the required loading. The battery team must show that adequate safety functions are in place, etc. The next step is showing that the car can handle brake tests and other simple dynamic tests. The final step is a hot lap around a road course at the Hidden Valley Motorsports Complex. The pole position is determined by the best single lap. In 2005 we went for the win (pole) and ended up getting 3rd, but it doesnt really matter. The only advantage is that there will be fewer cars in front to pass. We passed the other two (cars) in the first 30 minutes of racing and were the first team to the check point. The race itself starts on Sunday morning (October 16), which is Saturday evening our time.
I highly encourage you to click through to the UMSolar web site (I've provided links). There are pictures and videos that are worth the look. Additionally, I would hope to be able to edit/update this diary with daily activity once the WSC kicks off. I've asked Brian for assistance since I've not been able to determine if edting a diary is possible. If I'm unable to do so, I may fire off some Board posts, daily. Being a motorsports nut, I'm as nervous about this race as I am about Saturday's game versus Sparta. The WSC happens every other year it's kind of like the Olympics and/or World Cup (at least it is to me). The best solar teams in the world are professionals, they do this for a living. It's akin to the 1980 US hockey team against the Soviets. We all know how that turned out....Go Blue.
Things that have been happening, to the team, recently:
October 5, 2011 - One feature of the World Solar Challenge that is different from the North American Solar Challenge is that racers are allowed to charge their vehicle's batteries beginning at sunrise every morning and ending when the sun sets every night, rather than having to pack up at a designated hour each evening.
The perk of this regulation is that the team is up and paying close attention to every glorious sunrise and sunset as they traverse the Outback. When camping in the middle of the continent, there is almost nothing to obstruct the horizon, so every view of the sky is picturesque.
October 6, 2011 - The team is currently on day two of our four day drive up to Darwin for the start of the 2011 Veolia World Solar Challenge. We decided to use the first two days of our drive for some additional on-road testing before we get into the Northern Territory, in which we aren’t allowed to drive Quantum until the race. Day one was definitely a strain as clouds covered the sky. Quantum pushed through and overall the day was very important as it gave our strategists more experience with driving under cloud cover. We found a clearing to camp out on at the end of the day.
This morning presented much more sunlight than the previous day, though clouds have started to roll in. Today will be another good test for our strategists and will be able to provide them with a good amount of practice. Once we get to the Northern Territory border, we will trailer Quantum the rest of the way up to Darwin and make our final preparations for WSC.
October 7, 2011 - Today was a very successful day on the road. Despite some cloud cover, Quantum still managed to cover over 700 KM during the course of the day, with zero time on the side of the road. The team is becoming acquainted with the race environment, solving challenges that come up quickly and effectively. With the Northern Territory roughly 50 KM away, we will spend just a short amount of time driving tomorrow to wrap up our testing for the Veolia World Solar Challenge. Our strategists are feeling comfortable with the performance of the car, and will be looking forward to a thrilling race in the days to come. The Media Crew has been busy testing out its video/communications equipment to ensure a constant stream of updates. Our strategists did a great job of predicting the weather, and were able to secure a sunny evening charge. Another benefit to this is a wonderful star filled view. For many of us, the is the best night sky we have ever seen.
October 10, 2011 - The team made it into Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia yesterday evening.
Darwin marks the start of the 3000 KM Veolia World Solar Challenge, which will begin on the morning of Sunday, October 16, 2011. In the mean time, the team will be at the Hidden Valley Raceway for Qualifying and final preparation of Quantum. We have already taken Quantum out for a spin on the track. The team is staying at the Youth Shack Hostel, which is well equipped with air conditioning and a pool. Since the temperatures are easily in the upper 90s to 100s with high humidity, it is a pleasant retreat.
October 11, 2011 - One of the major obstacles the teams will encounter during the Veolia World Solar Challenge will be cattle grids. There are over 100 grids in total spanning the 3000 km stretch of the Stuart Highway. All teams must be prepared to traverse them successfully. See below for a short video explaining their purpose, and to see footage from the Outback of Quantum taking them in stride.