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.

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Saturday, October 1, 2005

Leeming Sungroper: Saturday 1st: 40 degrees in 10 minutes

There is no dawn underground. But we are not in a hurry to get going early. We do not bother setting out the array for dawn charge.

We trailer forward to the next checkpoint, Glendambo. While we serve our half hour, we are not allowed to work on the car, but Steve has already removed the chain tensioner from the car so that he can fix it with more steel wire. As we roll out for the checkpoint, we drag the chain in the dust.

Steve is very keen to get some more solar kilometres. I chat to a blue shirt at the checkpoint, and it seems that the road ahead will be flat, straight, with broad shoulders and little traffic for another 80km. We are unlikely to get better road for testing.

But we have not yet driven this car with this motor for more than three metres, and with the complete absence of telemetry, I am uneasy. We resolve to drive for five minutes, stop and measure the motor temperature with the pyrometer, drive for five, stop and measure, drive, measure, drive, measure, wash, rinse, repeat.

So we solar out from the checkpoint. Five minutes out or so, as we are looking for a good piece of shoulder to pull over onto, we reach a cattle grid. With our rear non-suspension, the grid is rough, and immediately after it, the driver hears a nasty clunk. He pulls over.

We push him off the road. The lead vehicle loops back to join us. Steve looks under the car for the source of the clunk, and I crawl under with the pyrometer (a nifty thermometer device) to measure the motor.

Temperatures on the bits of the motor I can reach range from 70 to 79 degrees C. That's more than 40 degrees rise since the checkpoint, in less than 10 minutes, and if it's that hot at the surface, you can bet that it's hotter on the inside.

We trailer.

We reach Port Augusta. It was our intention to skip this checkpoint, as we are allowed to skip one over the course of the race. We intended to merely stop in, tell them that we're skipping, so they don't have to hold it open just for us, and continue; but due to logistical complexities we wind up taking 30 minutes there anyway.

Onno phones me to see how we're doing, what the car is capable of, and generally if there's any way he can help us.

We reach Angle Vale, the end of timing, at 7:06pm. Normally, that would give us enough 2-for-1 penalty minutes to make us start the next day around noon, but since the only solar cars behind us on the course have also trailered, I think the race officials don't particularly mind about timing. Word comes that the race officials would like us to cross the line somewhere around 11am, give or take; we'll see what we can do.

John has had some difficulty finding accommodation that can take such a large number of people. Possibly this has something to do with the speedway a few k short of the end of timing, and the gajillion parked cars outside it, overflowed onto the sides of the road for over a kilometre.

But there's a caravan park just after the end of timing, and they rent us a building that looks like it used to be a scout hall. So we still need to set out all our bed rolls and such, but we don't need tents.

Now that we are returned to mobile connectivity, students scatter around the gravel lot out front of the hall, each finding a quiet corner to make phone calls. Some phones have flat batteries, and so their owners are tethered to power points inside the hall.

Dinner is piece meal: toast with egg, beans, barbecued potato, frozen curry barbecue-reheated.

Many people ask me if I am OK; I explain that I am just tired. Based on the number of enquiries, either I am substantially more tired than usual, or tonight's camp spot is better lit the last five.

Students horse around, give each other wedgies, throw a football, and invent a game involving a rubber ball and a row of thongs. (Note for foreigners: thongs are a form of footwear.)

We resolve that tomorrow we will trailer back to the end of timing, trailer forward to Torrens Parade Ground, a kilometre or so short of the finish line, and solar in from there.

-- Doug Burbidge