Information on this blog is raw and sometimes unverified reporting straight from the road by teams. The event will issue a media release for any events requiring an official notification.

Note that links in blog entries are not maintained, so while a link may be verified to work on the day of publishing, this is not guaranteed beyond that day.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Soleon: September 24th 2005 - Late Night Darwin, Northern Territory

Shame on me for thinking that today might be uneventful! Team Soleon qualified today in the wake of a frightening and unforgettable incident. Moments before Soleon was to take their turn on the race track, MIT?s Tesseract met with disaster. Tesseract?s front, left, carbon fiber tire rim broke on a tight turn causing the driver to loose control and roll over. After a few tense moments it was announced that the driver was okay, walking away with only a sprained wrist and some very rattled nerves. At the team meeting later in the day, it was mentioned that when the solar car was righted, the driver?s head actually bumped the ground as the canopy had split on impact. Thankfully, MIT is one of a few teams participating in the WSC that prioritizes safety over aerodynamics, using both a roll bar and a helmet. No one doubts that the inclusion of these two safety measures assured that the driver was able to walk away today. Tesseract, on the other hand, did not fare as well as its driver. The array and top shell suffered substantial damage, but like any dedicated team, MIT is now burning the midnight oil in hopes of being on the starting line tomorrow morning.

Only a short time after this very unsettling scene, and fighting some damped spirits, Colby, our project manager, pulled Soleon out on the track to perform the two required laps, a test lap and the timed ?hot? lap. Although the test lap went smoothly, during the second qualifying lap Soleon suffered three separate power losses, slowing Soleon?s performance. Despite the complications, Colby managed to complete the lap in a respectable time of 2 minutes and 32 seconds, earning us an ideal starting position of 11th place, right in the middle of the pack.

The events at qualifying were followed by more bad news as word spread that The University of New South Wales suffered a roll over accident with their trailer resulting in irreparable damage to the team?s solar car. Understandably, this was a disheartening blow to the Aussie team and such news always sends a certain amount of sadness through a very sympathetic race community. Fortunately though, no injuries have been reported and I?d like to believe that each of these incidents can be learned from by all involved in this sport.

Although the anticipated high energy of the qualifying events was not to be, we moved forward to prepare for the race ahead. The rest of our day involved preparing the team and our vehicles for the week long journey. The WSC differs from the NASC in that there are no staged stops and therefore no potential for down time. Until we reach Adelaide, we will race from 8 am to 5 pm, with the sun setting by about 7pm. As one can imagine, the Outback offers little in terms of modern conveniences, with only a few populated areas where one can access a grocery store. To help prepare the team, Garett and I filled the afternoon by filling a shopping cart, four or five times over, in two different grocery stores, to acquire enough supplies to last our team through the busy week ahead. I must say, as hard as it was to train myself to drive a car the left side of the road, it was even more difficult to remember to keep my shopping cart on the left side of the aisle. I went head to head with a few unsuspecting Aussie shoppers!

Although we are sure to face a few more challenges on the road ahead we are looking forward to competing alongside such a diverse field of international racers. One piece of good news to end on, a company called Inmarsat has generously supplied our team with satellite equipment, known as R-BGAN, that will enable us to access the internet during the race. This means I will not have to scour the Outback for net access and can continue to relay all our adventures to you, our fabulous supporters!

Aussie phrase of the day "Whatcha chasin'?" Translation: "What are you looking for?"

Laurie Heilman Bell MASc. Communications Manager/Nutritional Advisor University of Calgary Team Soleon