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.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Leeming SHS: Challenge Day 8: 28 October

This is the final day of the Challenge, or would have been, if it hadn't been called due to weather yesterday, which it wasn't.

The story, it turns out, is that the police asked the WSC to take solar cars off the road while a severe weather warning was in effect, with the intent that they could return to solaring later if the weather improved. But by the time this trickled down to the teams on the road, the story had chinese-whispered to become the end of solaring. For those teams that got the message, anyway: some only heard when they reached the finish line.

The finish line: that's our final objective.

We walk from our backpackers', in the Adelaide CBD, down to Torrens Parade Ground, the logistics area for teams. We roll our car out of the trailer, and turn it on.

Predictably, it doesn't go.

The driver controls board is deader than usual: we flex it, to no avail, and so I am forced to resort to the soldering iron and a few mumbled incantations. It turns out that a combination of soldering and flexing resurrect the board from always-fail to usually-fail. We get a good boot and leave it alone.

Last time, the WSC provided a lead bus that held our crew and a follow vehicle to escort our car. This time they provide the bus again, but it's not a lead vehicle: it just ferries us up to the finish line at Victoria Square, leaving only our driver in the solar car and our team manager in the follow vehicle. This is clever because this way, if anything goes wrong with our car during the drive (which is up-hill), we'll be unable to deal with it, and the car will be left stuck in the right lane of city trafic.

Most of our radio comms are either flat (because we're in a backpackers' rather than our regular camp, so radios were not charged overnight), or vehicle mounted, and we're away from our vehicles. We've got comms between the solar car and the team manager in the follow vehicle, but no more. Our radios don't work on the WSC's radio channel, and theirs don't work on ours.

We arrive at the finish line.

We wait. Nothing happens.

We wait. Nothing happens.

We wait. We receive word that Willetton's car, Sungroper, has left the parade grounds. They're a bit of a special case: their car isn't running, so they're simply going to push it by hand. They have a police escort to help them not get run over while they do this.

We wait. Strobe lights appear a few traffic lights away. With each cycle of lights, they get one intersection closer, then they cross the line. All cheer.

We wait. We receive word that our car has left the parade grounds. Probably. It sounds like it's working. Probably.

Strobes appear in traffic, and after a smaller wait, because our car can move faster than a hand-pushed car, we cross the finish line. All cheer.

Cheering and celebrations are much more subdued than in my two previous Challenges, possibly because we have been kept waiting so long.

We hang around the square for a while, looking at other cars, which are on display in marquee tents. We cheer one other car as it crosses the line. Cars are arriving only very slowly, even though there are several cars waiting at the parade grounds to come in.

There is a solar boat race, with small boats made by school students, going on in the fountain. There is a solar car race, with small cars made by school students, going on on the other side of the square. Each car has an egg as driver.

It rains. All retreat to marquees.

We give up waiting for other solar cars to arrive, and return to the backpackers'.

And that's it: the Challenge is over. We completed, by our count, 1050km on solar power. In the evening we go to the awards ceremony, then a team dinner. The following day we pack, and wash our extremely dirty vehicles, and the day after that we're scheduled to return those vehicles and fly home.

-- Doug, Leeming Hammerhead