Bridgestone World Solar Challenge – Day 5

No Kilometer Wasted

We wake up in Coober Pedy, and the overall mood didn’t improve too much last night. There’s another long day of driving ahead of us, while yesterday’s shortcomings still put a heavy weight on our shoulders. Nonetheless, we get up early and make our way towards the starting line.

What caught us by surprise here in Coober Pedy is the sudden, cold climate. Yesterday we still camped out in the heat of the desert, now it’s only eight degrees at sunrise. After so many weeks spent in the hot tropics, this feels like the middle of winter to us. As soon as it’s light outside, we put up our solar array to face the sun. We need to gather as much solar energy as possible before starting today’s run.

Also, we’re not exactly starting at Coober Pedy. While here, we learned how the BWSC organizers decided to grant another 30 minutes of driving to Cruiser teams yesterday, due to the poor weather conditions. This information never arrived with us however, although we could have easily finished yesterday’s stage had we known. Now, we go 30 kilometers back up the highway to the point where we started trailering yesterday. The tkSR turns around once there and begins todays trip by covering those 30 kilometers after all. Under this pretense, we hope to still get credit for them in the end.

Some Clarification Needed

Our SolarCar is running smoothly again. We pass by Coober Pedy before long, then cover another 600 kilometers past the last remaining control stops at Glendambo and Port Augusta. While in Glendambo, we’re approached by the manager of team Sunswift. He tells us how his team perfectly understands our complaints about what happened yesterday, and that we’ve got their full backing on our side. Needless to say, we’re more than thankful for his support.

And he’s got more news for us yet. There’s been another crucial incident over at the Challenger Class. The multiple world champions and leaders of the race team Vattenfall from the Netherlands lost their car to a battery fire. Shortly before reaching Adelaide, their SolarCar burned down completely, luckily not injuring anybody.

Having learned all this, we continue our trip and arrive at Port Augusta that afternoon. It’s here that we learn from event officials how our complaint from earlier has unfortunately been declined, and we won’t get any extra credit for yesterday. An atmosphere of disappointment briefly spreads through the team. But we also learn that we’re currently still in fourth place. There’s definitely much to be gained by finishing the race.

About half an hour of today’s racing time still remains as we leave Port Augusta. We still manage to cover some distance before 5 pm. In the end, we stop at a small resting area at the side of the road, some 260 kilometers away from the finish line. Our SolarCar should make it to Adelaide some time tomorrow before noon.

Coincidentally, another team reaches our camping spot before the end of the day. These would be our colleagues from the University of Minnesota, who we already met at some earlier checkpoints. We take a look at our surroundings and notice a burnt-out heap of ashes and carbon components at the side of one field. Looking more closely, we notice how it’s marked “Nuna X.” Apparently, we’re looking at what’s left of Team Vattenfall’s solar vehicle, after it burned down right here only hours earlier.

Last Night in the Outback

Since we’re here already, we team up with Minnesota for a joint dinner. We tell each other stories about our journey and exchange our first team shirts. Despite the sobering events from earlier, we feel more at ease tonight than we have at any time during the previous days. No matter what happened so far, the only thing that counts for us now is successfully wrapping up our adventure tomorrow. There may be another two or three hours of driving ahead, but the soon to come celebrations are already on their way. Let’s hope we can bring this great feeling with us to Adelaide.

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