Sasol Solar Challenge Day 3: Gariep Dam – 24 September 2018
Nuon retakes the lead and bad weather forecasts slows down South African team. Late penalties place Tokai third and stormy weather prompts difficult decisions
Gariep Dam, South Africa – With only a minute in it, Dutch team Nuon have retaken the lead from the Japanese in the third day of the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge. Both teams covered an admirable 441.9 kilometres, but with a one-minute late arrival time penalty, Tokai will start third on the grid on Tuesday. The ever-consistent Swiss team, Solar Energy Racers, will now start second on the line up at Gariep Dam’s Forever Resorts, having covered 360 kilometres.
South African teams battled with cloudy skies and strong winds, and with more of the same in the forecast, had to make difficult decisions.
“The Bloemfontein to Gariep Dam stage was more about strategy than distance for us – and probably for all the teams,” said Tiaan Oosthuizen, electrical engineer and strategist from the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) team. “The weather wasn’t in our favour, and we know that it won’t be for the next few days. We had to plan our energy use very carefully and make sure we’ve got the power we need for the windy hills to come on the way to Port Elizabeth.”
With the South African flag proudly branded across their car, TUT recovered 164.1 kilometres on their first full day back on the road after their earlier setback. On day one, their solar panel took significant damage, and was repaired overnight by the dedicated engineers on their team. High school team Sonke Siyakude completed 40.6 kilometres, and the North-West University team 21.8 kilometres.
As the sole competitor in the sustainability class, City University’s hyper-realistic solar car finally got into the black, clocking 10.9 kilometres. That puts them on 8.6 kilometres total, after a deficit from heavy time penalties plagued their place on the leader board the day before.
Heritage Day traffic also played a major role in the teams’ progress today, with the Think Bike safety marshals – two of whom escort each team – being tested to the limit.
“Day three was an incredibly busy stretch of road, and the Think Bike team had their work cut out for them,” said Sean Funster, Think Bike event captain. “When the safety bikes are with the solar car convoy, they’re considering the safety of that car, of the whole convoy, of the members of the public, and of course, themselves. They’re also taking the team’s competitive strategy – which sometimes involves overtaking other convoys – into consideration, as well as language barriers. So, we have to be 100% alert, 100% of the time.”
The Tuesday stage from Gariep Dam to Graaff-Reinet will pass through Middelburg, where the Hoërskool Middelburg hosts the control stop area, and schools from the area travel to view the cars as part of the Sasol Solar Challenge’s educational drive. Solar cars will arrive in Graaff-Reinet at Hoër Volk Skool from around 16h00, with all cars in by 17h00. Spectators are welcome at all stops, and encouraged to attend all aspects of this family-friendly event.
— PROOF AFRICA