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Solar Challenge teams battle wind and rain

Motorsport

Gariep Dam, Free State - Teams participating in the Sasol Solar Challenge had to push through strong, gusty winds, dust storms and a heavy downpour on Monday.

Ten solar cars drove from Bloemfontein to a control stop in Edenburg, where they drove a loop over and over again to increase their total distance. From there they went to Gariep Dam.

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A member of the Japanese Tokai Challenger team gets down to it during the Bloemfontein to Gariep Dam leg of the race. Picture: Barry Aldwortht / eXpect Life

Team strategists could be seen frantically calculating how far and fast the cars would be able to go in the bad weather using data gathered from weather stations attached to their support vehicles.

The Japanese Tokai University Solar Team pulled over under a bridge to avoid the storm, which hit about 20km before the overnight stop at Gariep Dam.

Spokesperson Max Bishil said: “It’s going to cost us some time, but our priority is the safety of all our team members.”

North West University's team had the same idea and pulled their car, Sirius X25, into a nearby petrol station.

“We waited there until it stopped and then charged our car,” said spokesperson Jimmy Pressly. “We wanted to find a good spot next to the road to charge our car. That was the plan all along.

“The only thing that held us back a bit was the fact that, if it didn’t rain, we would have charged the car a bit longer.

“Luckily it didn’t rain that long and we were still able to stick to the plan. We were able to charge the car for about an hour-and a-half,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Nuon Solar Team from Delft University in the Netherlands covered the most distance on the day, with 605.6km, despite damaging the front of their car on Sunday when they drove into a wall.

Team spokesperson Sarah Bennink Bolt said they had worked through the night to repair the damage as best they could. Tokai clocked the second furthest distance of the day with 583.1km.

The University of Johannesburg Solar Team was the South African team which accumulated the most distance, with 360.4km.

The Star

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