29 September – The bad luck doesn’t seem to stop for the Dutch team. Yesterday they got stopped by the police, today their solar car Nuna had to get numerous repairs because of the heavy winds and bumpy South African roads. Despite these setbacks, the students of Delft University of Technology are still ahead of their competitors.
Yesterday afternoon, just 10 minutes before the finish in Port Elizabeth, the team was stopped by some curious police officers. The delay caused the team to finish about 15 minutes later than the allowed finish time. Normally, this would mean that the team would have to start behind the other teams the following day. The organization of the SASOL Solar Challenge recognized the situation as an unavoidable accident, which wasn’t the team’s mistake. Therefore, the Nuon Solar Team could start from the first place today.
On the sixth day, the Dutch students experienced strong winds during their race through South Africa. When Nuna drove out of Port Elizabeth, a big wind gust got hold of the canopy – the roof over the driver’s head – and blew it away. Luckily, it missed the road and the canopy flew all the way into the bushes. The damage caused by the wind was not too bad, and the team was able to continue their journey to Cape Town. At the overnight stop, the team will have to put in a lot of work to fix the canopy.
Only two loops after the canopy flew off, fate struck again. Christel Prins, the strategist of the team, noticed a strong drop in the incoming energy. She says: “All of a sudden we saw that the incoming solar energy was 80% lower than normal. The driver told us he heard a ticking sound. Our initial thought was that a wire got disconnected and we continued until the next mandatory loop stop.” When the team arrived, the team saw that a disconnected wire was indeed the cause of the ticking and Electrical Engineer Bas van Wee fixed the cabling within seconds. He says: “Looking back, we should have stopped by the road to fix the cabling, this would have spared us from an empty battery.”
From the sixth day on, the surroundings change a lot. Before, Nuna usually drove through empty fields and villages. However, today the team started the Garden Route. This beautiful route along the coast of South Africa cast a lot of steep slopes and sharp turns. Even with the encountered setbacks, the Nuon Solar Team is still the leader of the race. With the bad luck the team has encountered, nothing is sure yet and we will have to wait upon what tomorrow brings.
Photos by Hans-Peter van Velthoven