Its race day! We woke up at 4:30am this morning to be ready to leave at 5:30am. We needed to be at the starting area in central Darwin by 6am. At 7:45am we had to have our drivers in our car ready to go.
Qualifying in 21st position on the grid, our scheduled start time was 8:20am. Our drivers went to drive the car from the marshalling area to the start line and could not get the car to move. After a few frantic messages on the radio, there was silence. We found out later the motor controller had detected the maximum voltage coming from the fully charged battery pack as an overload and shut down automatically to protect the system.
The delay in starting meant we were taken out of the starting area and had to start at the end of the order so we couldn’t leave until 9am after 40 other teams. Our chief engineer used the time to reprogram the motor controller to increase the cut-off voltage and get the car to go.
A steep hill climb behind other slower solar cars at Hayes Creek ended when we had to stop behind other traffic and couldn’t get rolling again on the steep slope. After considering our options and the rules we pushed it backwards so it was facing towards the road and set out back down the hill. We found a place to turn around and have another go at the climb. This time we were more fortunate with the traffic and the car roared up the hill doing 112kph.
We travelled to the first control point in Katherine where we arrived in 17th place amongst the solar cars, having passed many teams along the road travelling very conservatively or having broken down. After a driver change and refuelling the support vehicles, we set out again.
Later in the afternoon we encountered heavy cloud cover which reduced the energy we got from the sun considerably and we had to slow down to help conserve the batteries. At one stage we were creeping along at 8kph. This meant that we were unable to make our planned stop at Larrimah and found a parking bay on the side of the road at 5:20pm where several other solar cars were already parked.
We set the solar cell array up on a stand facing the afternoon sun to get something into the batteries before setting up camp and getting dinner.