Coober Pedy – Uluru – Alice Springs
The pre-team left Coober Pedy on Sunday to get back onto the road and ever deeper into the Outback. A quick breakfast together with Team Sonnenwagen from Aachen started off another long day on the Stuart Highway. We passed the state border around noon and made our first stop in the NT at nearby Kulgera Roadhouse. A small detour from here and another three-hour drive took us from there to Ayers Rock, also known as Uluru.
The trip to this enormous landmark, maybe the most famous in all of rural Australia made for a welcome opportunity to take a few photos with the thyssenkrupp SunRiser. Our SolarCar may have competed in the 2015 BWSC, but its visit to Uluru was still a first. The pictures taken here will add to our solar vehicles’ collection of famous sights visited around the world.
No Driving Without Setback
Stunning as Uluru was, our visit only lasted a few hours. Our destination for tonight was Alice Springs, so we had to make good use of the rest of the day. While most of the drive proved to be relatively uneventful, a well-known issue of ours came up again eventually. We were about an hour away from Alice Springs when one of the tires on the trailer carrying our tools was torn apart by shrapnel on the road. And late in the afternoon as it was, there couldn’t be too much time left until everything would turn dark around us. When informed about the new situation the other members of our pre-team quickly drove on to Alice Springs, where they contacted the local Bridgestone workshop. Here the tkSR could be loaded off and stay for the night. With the yellow trailer emptied out, everyone drove right back to the site of the accident.
With a little improvisation at hand, the broken-down trailer got lifted into the larger one where it was tied up and secured. Camping outside of Alice Springs later on, we finally caught a glimpse of the Outback’s unobscured night’s sky. Nowhere back in Europe is the Milky Way with all its stars as visible as it is right here, making for a truly overwhelming sight.
The team returned to Bridgestone’s workshop early in the morning to load the tkSR right back up. The workshop employees had a replacement tire for our other trailer already in stock by then. After no more than two hours, we had everything patched up and ready to go.
It took us three more days to cross the remainder of the Territory. Long drives with short rests in between made up our schedule until we finally arrived in Darwin on Thursday. Our workshop here was located at Nightcliff Middle School. The school had already provided their facilities to our 2017 team. We left the SolarCar and our equipment at the site, then continued on to our local accommodation. Here the pre-team could finally catch their breath. The unimaginable distance of 5000 Kilometers are now finally and completely behind us.
Brought Together After Weeks
During the pre-team’s first night in Darwin, the remainder of our team arrives at the local airport, bit by bit. Some of us still catch a few hours of sleep before morning, when our first day at work with the entire team begins. Only the members driving north from Adelaide are still missing of course. They spent the last night at Katherine and still need to take on the Stuart Highway’s final stretch. Before noon they finally arrive at Nightcliff Middle School, with everyone else already expecting them. From now on everybody is finally back together again.
With most of us spending their first day in Australia, the issue of collective jetlag becomes noticeable once more. After finishing whatever tasks were scheduled for today, the team decides to end the day a little earlier. In the evening our kitchen team hosts a small barbecue for us, so the first evening in Australia may end with a bit of celebration.
Everyone’s a lot less weary the day after. Our team starts off the day by checking the SolarCar’s electrical and mechanical components, just like we’ll have to do every morning during the race. In other words, the thyssenkrupp SunRiser has a complete checkup from front to back for the first time after almost three months of shipping and transportation. Despite some minor errors that need to be fixed, the car’s condition turns out to be much better than expected by most.
Preparing for the Big Race
Neither the thyssenkrupp SunRiser nor our team are entirely ready for the race just yet. After checking up on the car some team members start working on and around it. One thing being built today is what we call the “bock,” namely a sort of wooden support for the SolarCar’s rear to be lifted up in case a tire needs to be changed during the race.
The support vehicles are also being prepared and cleaned, the latter being especially necessary after so many days in the desert. And the so-called Chase, the car which will directly accompany our tkSR throughout the race has its equipment for the racing strategy installed. In short, we’re making some clear progress already. The time for our first test drive in Australia isn’t completely certain yet, since we need an appointment prior to starting. The first day of testing will likely be around October 1st however. So now there’s ten more days until the thyssenkrupp SunRiser will finally be back underway. Until then we keep dreaming of the vast Outback we worked towards for so long.
(originally published on September 22, 2019)