BATTLING THE ELEMENTS: UKZN's iKlwa solar car aims to improve its daily distance enroute from Graaff-Reinet to Port Elizabeth. Image: Solarchallenge.co.za
PORT ELIZABETH - Teams participating in the 2014 Sasol Solar Challenge are in for yet another tough day.
As team left the halfway mark of the eight-day endurance challenge, 10 solar-powered cars departed Graaff-Reinet to take on water soaked roads and pouring rain.
On Wednesday (Oct 1), teams will travel to Jasenville for control loops before heading to the fifth pit-stop in Port Elizabeth.
Organisers report that the cars, powered only by sunlight, collectively completed 8256.6 km since the start of the event in Pretoria on September 27.
'NOTHING SHORT OF ADMIRABLE'
Winstone Jordaan, 2014 Solar Challenge director, said: “The sheer tenacity and determination displayed by the teams participating this year is nothing short of admirable.
“Today we will again see solar cars being put to the test by heavy rain, cloudy skies, shifting altitudes and strong winds. These tough conditions, for us, pose incredibly important questions: How do solar-powered vehicles perform in adverse conditions and how effective are repairs on cars once they have been damaged?”
On Tuesday (Sept 30), the teams experienced the longest loop of the challenge yet, with most cars completing these in one or two hours.
Due to harsh weather, participants had to drive slowly in the wind and had to cover vehicles. As a result, only the Nuon Solar Team, Team UKZN and NWU Solar Car Team were able to complete loops.
At the halfway mark on Day 4 (Sept 30), race leaders Delft University’s Nuon Solar Team, won by achieving 510.4km.
The Nuon Solar Team was followed by Team UKZN with a daily distance of just under 400km. North West University maintained its consistent performance, accumulating a daily distance of 315.2km.
Frontrunners, Anadolu Solar Team, came in fourth with a 221.8km without completing a loop. The team, however, still ranks second on the leaderboard.
PENALTIES AND REPAIRS
The real story lies with the two teams in danger of leaving the race. The UJ Solar Team fixed its car and are back in the challenge though were handed a hefty 90 minute penalty. The team's poor luck continued as it suffered a penalty for distance again after finishing late on Wednesday evening (Sept 30).
Team UCTSVG were also able to hit the road again. Its car, unofficially named “the boat” took the winds in stride as its large size is better equipped to resist forceful winds than the others. It did however suffer from problems in the wet weather. After a particularly steep rise, the team was forced to put its car onto a trailer to finish the race.
With a penalty on distance for finishing late, the team ended up in the negative on the leaderboard.
Still, despite all of the problems, these two teams are still in the Sasol Solar Challenge and remain extremely determined.
The Sasol Solar Challenge will pass through Knysna and Swellendam, before heading to the finale in Cape Town on October 4.
• For more information and to get behind your favourite team follow the Sasol Solar Challenge on Twitter, like the Facebook page or visit the website.