Bridgestone World Solar Challenge – Day 3

Deeper into the Heart of Australia

With one third of the way behind us, team Bochum continues to keep up with the leading SolarCars. After a short night in Tennant Creek we return to the checkpoint in the morning, right before sunrise. Now it’s time to get the thyssenkrupp SunRiser ready for the next part of the journey. Team Eindhoven is already at there when we arrive, other teams join us after a bit.

All cruiser cars line up at the side of the road when another day of racing begins at eight. SolarCar Stella Era from Eindhoven is first to leave, followed directly by our tkSR. Eventually one cruiser after the other gets back on the road and keeps on traveling south. We don’t see many challenger class cars here. There’s only a half-hour checkpoint for them at Tennant Creek, so none of them stay for very long.

Last night’s charging has brought all the cruisers back to the same spot again. We expect the road to be crowded with SolarCars this morning, and there’s bound to be a few overtaking maneuvers. Our goal to keep pushing forward and catch up with Eindhoven’s solar powerhouse. The tkSR fares exceptionally well, and we get closer and close to first place. At one point we’re less than a kilometer apart from Eindhoven, even prompting consideration to initiate a passing of the Dutch convoy. The tension and excitement become almost unbearable by the time misfortune strikes us again. The thyssenkrupp SunRiser reportedly has a flat tire and needs to get off the road as soon as possible.

Quick Responses to Setbacks

We pull over at the first opportunity. Everyone’s anxious to fix the issue, which luckily doesn’t lead to further chaos. The procedure of changing tires gets started right away; everyone has their assigned task. The many hours of training for exactly these kinds of situations finally pay off, and we get the tkSR fixed up in record time. Even though the whole process finished this quickly, almost everyone else passed us in the meantime, and the chase is back to square one.

Our SolarCar continues driving safely, until the solar array starts reporting difficulties. Only a fraction of the usual energy intake seems to actually arrive with the battery. While hastily communicating via radio, we do our best looking for potential causes and remedies. A quick stop by the side of the road is furthermore necessary, costing us a valuable few minutes.

Again, the thyssenkrupp SunRiser gets going before long, and we manage to keep up with everyone else. Our convoy passes by Devils Marbles along the way. There isn’t any time to stop for taking photos of course. Our next stop is further south, at Alice Springs. After some complications on arrival, we reach the checkpoint right after teams IVE and Sunswift. Eindhoven isn’t here anymore. Apparently, Stella Era escaped us once again.

Ten minutes after leaving Alice Springs we encounter another tricky situation. All teams need to watch out for the only right turn on the entire Stuart Highway here, as going straight ahead leads to a dead end leading nowhere but the local airport. Our team meets the issue well-prepared however, so we don’t have any problems turning correctly and continuing on towards Adelaide.

We made it this far, but now the end point for today’s racing is only one hour away. It’s high time for us to look for another place to spend the night. The team ends up at Stuarts Well Roadhouse. When Sunswift contacts us right before our arrival, we learn they intend to stay at the same location. Arriving at the rest stop we congratulate each other to another exciting but successful day on the road.

Night in the Outback, Again

Team IVE also made it to Stuarts Well by the time the tkSR gets here, thus turning the small roadhouse into another busy SolarCar hub for the night. We spend the evening chatting about our progress so far and looking ahead to the next days. It’s always great to see everyone encourage and motivate each other, despite all of us technically being competitors.

Half of the 1200 kilometers to Coober Pedy are now behind us. With another day like this tomorrow, we should arrive with the opal mines just as planned, thus bringing the hardest part of the journey behind us entirely. And that’s a goal every one of us is doing their best to work towards.

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