Top teams start at back of grid on dramatic last day of Sasol Solar Challenge
The world’s top teams strategically late to forfeit time for distance as solar cars line up one last time
Swellendam, South Africa – After a stormy start in Sedgefield, the top contenders for the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge will be starting last on the grid this morning on their final day. Nine solar cars have been chasing the African sun on SA’s best roads. They started in Pretoria on Saturday 22 September, and top teams have completed more than 3,500 km. Teams come from from SA, Switzerland, Japan, Hong Kong and The Netherlands.
Friday’s route from Sedgefield to Swellendam started with big storms and strong winds, which cleared up by Mossel Bay, but made for a tough first stage. With a final push to get the most distance possible, both frontrunners from the Netherlands and Japan sacrificed time for distance. Choosing to do extra laps of the route road that would see them cross the finish line late, Tokai and Nuon incurred start time penalties and will start seventh and eight respectively.
Swiss team Solar Energy Racers look well poised to take third place. After an impressive display of resilience, the team are on the road despite sustaining damage earlier in the Challenge, and have travelled just more than 2,240 km.
In the challenge for fourth, SA’s Tshwane University of Technology and North-West University will battle it out on the roads today. TUT and NWU have both completed just under 3,000 km, and the picturesque loop past the Cape Agulhas lighthouse today will be the final determining factor for the top local teams.
Also impacting on the close finish between the international teams, who have been neck and neck, is a distance penalty decision made in Swellendam.
Due to infringement of privacy in the campsite, whether intentional or not, a 117.4 km penalty has been imposed on the Nuon Solar Team.
“We absolutely respect the privacy of the Tokai University Solar Team and have been competing against them for a long time,” said team leader Jelle van der Lugt, of the Nuon Solar Team. “So, we understand that when a team member from our team enters a Tokai command vehicle – which in our view was a mistake due to illness – is a serious breach of highly confidential solar car information, regardless of circumstances.”
“The Nuon Solar Team has been a respected and friendly competitor of ours for years, and we work well together,” said Kouhei Sagawa, Tokai University Solar Team supervisor. “This was a highly unfortunate incident, but it has not altered our respect for the Nuon Solar Team. Our universities both represent the forefront of research on these technologies, and we appreciate their understanding that an infringement like this is a serious issue.”
Van der Lugt added, “We are happy to keep competing with the Tokai solar team – they are a respected competitor that pushes us to be better.”
“The penalty was applied regardless of blame – an infringement like this has to be treated seriously, and we as the organisers commend both teams for their mature and gracious handling of the event,” said Winstone Jordaan, Sasol Solar Challenge director. “They’re great competitors, and we look forward to seeing this come out on the road on their last day.”
Spectators are welcome at the final finish line in Stellenbosch at Die Braak on 3 Blom Street. Cars will cross the line at 16h00, after which the results will be checked, and team celebrations will begin!
Earlier in the day, the cars will also be doing their pit stop in Bredasdorp at the Glass Castle sports venue, while they do laps of the final looped route around the Cape Agulhas lighthouse. Spectators are welcome between 10h00 and 14h00.
The last chance to see these incredible vehicles will be at GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World on Sunday 30 September between 10h00 and 14h00.