Much to do in the Tropics

Preparing in Darwin

It’s the fourth day in our workshop. The team has fully accustomed itself to working in Australia and we’ve already settled into our daily routine. We start every day at seven in the morning. It’s a fifteen-minute drive from the hostel to breakfast at our workshop, followed by our daily discussion on what’s to be done today.

The first days tend to follow more or less the same pattern, with our SolarCar’s regular checkup always being first on the agenda. These kinds of checks will have the same priority every day during the race. Once they’re done, everyone in our team starts working on their assignments to get the thyssenkrupp SunRiser up and ready for the upcoming test drives.

Something did change about our situation at Nightcliff Middle School though. It is now Monday. School vacations in the Territory are going to start next week but for the time being, team and students will have to share their workspace. The next day, faculty staff invites two of our members to the student body’s morning assembly. Here they give a brief introduction to our team’s background which is well-received. During the following days, groups of students occasionally come by our workshop for a curious glance at this solar-driven car that’s come halfway around the world.

What else is there to do? The final preparations of our car’s motors, turn signals, and array for once. And there’s just as much to be done with the rest of our vehicles. The cars we rented in Sydney and Adelaide are currently being equipped with everything participation in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge requires. A lot of equipment meant to calculate our racing strategy gets installed onto the Chase. This van will directly accompany the thyssenkrupp SunRiser throughout the race. All other vehicles get labeled with stickers to distinguish them as part of a convoy participating in the Challenge.

All Things at the Ready

Thursday introduces a big appointment to our schedule, as we’re starting our first bigger simulation today. In other words, the team managers spend most of the day going through the exact process which they’ll be faced with during static scrutineering. This gives us a chance to assess just how well we would do come the actual testing next week. There are numerous questions being asked concerning the SolarCar, team, and escort vehicles. Not all of them are easy to answer. Still, the results end up painting an overly positive picture, despite some inconsistencies here and there. The remaining mistakes only need to be corrected until the actual scrutineering process starts.

The last remaining adjustments to our SolarCar wrap up during the afternoon, so that the thyssenkrupp SunRiser is now finally set to drive again. We might not be allowed on Australian streets just yet, but that doesn’t stop the team from taking a short tour across campus. The tkSR covers its short route with ease, all the while displaying the same kind of reliability we already experienced while travelling to France in May.

Does that make our SolarCar fully prepared for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge? There’s definitely a lot of testing ahead until we start the race. During the week, different members of our team already manage to arrange some private and public testing areas. Others try to simultaneously acquire a temporary license for testing in the Territory. On Friday, we finally get a phone call on the issue. The local government notifies us about their inspector who will check on our car and arrive with us in about half an hour.

Again, we depend on fast and efficient preparation. We quickly roll the car out of the workshop, fix up its array, and place everything into road-ready condition. By the time the inspector and BWSC officials arrive, everything is perfectly in order for thorough analysis. With no serious shortcomings being reported during the inspection, it doesn’t take long before we get our certificate. Thanks to our early appointment we’re now the first of many SolarCar teams to be officially allowed on the Northern Territory’s streets, starting on October 1st.

Soon We’ll Be Good to Go

Everything worked out well so far. With this in mind, the team decides to take the entirety of the next day off for once. With enough sleep caught the night before, we meet for breakfast the next morning, a little later than usually. We pack up our cars and take off to nearby Litchfield National Park, a natural reserve right in the heart of the tropics. The team spends the day hiking all across the dense forest, surrounded by temperatures of nearly forty degrees, experiencing incredible sceneries otherwise only seen in movies. The park contains a few lakes as well, most of which gathered over time at the bottom of large waterfalls. With an amazing field trip behind us, we take some time to cool off in the water before going back to Darwin, tired but very much happy with how the day turned out.

That night we also get to spend some time with Team Twente from the Netherlands. They invited us and our colleagues from Aachen over for dinner. Even our longtime friend Roslyn Jan from Sydney could come, who’s been acquainted with the project ever since the SolarWorld GT travelled to Australia. Despite the great meetup most people need to split up before long, since work will be calling soon the morning after.

And there’s lots of work still, with the testing phase technically right at our doorstep. Even the scrutineering process is only a week away. Time is running and our schedule is filled up accordingly. The team can’t wait to finally get the thyssenkrupp SunRiser out of our workshop and onto the road, so we can prove what we and our car are capable of.

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