Pretoria - Top contenders Nuon and Tokai have been neck-and-neck for the first three days of the Sasol Solar Challenge, until Tuesday.
For the first time, Japanese Tokai team have put 36 kilometres between themselves and the world champions.
Tokai’s Challenger solar car has now travelled 2 072.6 kilometres on South African roads in just four days.
“At this level of competition, we often see the top teams differentiated only by time,” said Winstone Jordaan, event director. “They employ the same strategies and clock the same distance, which means the winner is determined by the first car to cross our finish line. For Tokai to pull off an extra lap in Middelburg, they will have made significant sacrifices in their strategy. The next few days are going to be very interesting indeed.”
In another first, a South African team has overtaken one of the top international competitors, with Tshwane University of Technology completing 291 kilometres against the Swiss’ 255. This places TUT third on the start line from Graaff-Reinet, the Swiss fourth, followed by North-West University with 41.7 kilometres.
Sixth on the line will be the City University solar car. Called Reysol and inspired by racing cars from the 1970s, it has been a crowd pleaser in towns along the route. At a full 900 kilograms, largely due to the steel body and big wheels, the car’s weight has limited its performance.
The City University of Hong Kong solar car team, who all met virtually through online racing games, have maintained from the start that the 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge is a learning experience from which they hope to collect data, attract sponsors, and build a more competitive solar car for 2020.
High School team Sonke Siyakude completed their lowest distance yet – only 13.7 kilometres, and will start seventh. Rolling over the line behind them, still with no distance to their names, are the Central University and Cape Peninsula University of Technology teams.
The Wednesday stage from Graaff-Reinet to Port Elizabeth will pass through Jansenville, where the main street will be closed to host the control stop area. Spectators are welcome at the start line in front of the Graaff-Reinet church from 7am to 7:30, when the first car leaves. In Jansenville, cars are expected between 9:30 and 2:30 pm, and Port Elizabeth’s Aldo Scribante raceway will host the finish line, with activities for the public from 4pm.