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Close Call: Nuon Solar Team saved its leading position

Posted on 09-10-2017

Technical issues lead to nerve-racking race-battle with Japanese team

The second day of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge was marked by a stressful
emergency stop and a subsequent battle for the leading position. The Nuon Solar Team’s
driver Sharon had to make a stop along the road for reparation; this resulted in a loss of
valuable race minutes. The runner-up, Japanese team Tokai, overtook their leading position. A
quick reparation and a determined overtaking enabled the Nuon Solar Team – despite the scare
– to reclaim their leading position before dusk. However, their lead is - with 2 racing minutes - 

minimal. 

The second day was packed with thrilling moments. After a prosperous 2,5 hours, disaster struck the
team. “I heard a blow and felt that Nuna had become instable”, says driver Sharon van Luik, who was
driving the solar car. I was startled by this bang and thought it was a blowout. Of course, I wanted to
keep on going because the other teams were on our heels. Unfortunately, I had to stop.”

Overtaken by the Japanese
When we parked Nuna along the road, our support crew immediately came to the rescue. It
turned out that a part of the suspension was broken. The crew members, amongst
others mechanics Casper Roth and Jasper Wijkhuizen, fixed the problem within an
impressive 10 minutes. In the meantime, Sharon’s fear was realized: the team was overtaken
by the Japanese team Tokai.

First place reclaimed
Sharon regained her focus, despite the shock and the scorching heat in the outback. She
managed to reclaim the team’s first position fairly quickly by overtaking the Japanese solar
car. She was assisted by Stijn Burger and Jasper Hemmes, our strategy crew in Mission
Control. This was quite a relief for the team, which was reminded of the potential transience
of their position as front-runner, said Team Manager Sander Koot. “This proves that a
leading position is not always significant. Nuna is still an experimental vehicle, which implies
that you cannot take your position for granted until the finish line is within eyesight."

Harsh weather conditions
Just as for the first racing day, the heat made things difficult for the Nuon Solar Team. Team
member Sarah Bennink Bolt tells us: "Last night's heat made it feel like you were in a sauna
when laying in your tent, so it wasn't a good night's rest for me". Despite of the constant
heat, the sun wasn’t always shining. “This means that we did not have the energy intake we
were hoping for”, says Sarah. “We’ve even had some rainfall today.”

Strategy in Mission Control
The custom-made solar cars at the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge are powered by solar
energy and therefore weather conditions are essential for the outcome of the race. The
distance of several kilometres between respective teams implies that some teams will
receive more energy, whereas other teams are stuck beneath a clouded area. This underlines the
importance of a proper strategy team. The driver must trust Mission Control – the car driving
behind Nuna – blindly. Mission control collects data regarding weather predictions, the race
performances of other teams and the battery conditions. They predict the perfect speed and
accelerations rate for the race driver.

Currently strategy is more important than ever: with the runner-up just 2 minutes behind
the Nuon Solar Team.

The current position after 1.210 km (control stop Barrow Creek)
Race day 2 - Monday October 9th 
1. Nuna (Netherlands) 15:54:57
2. Tokai (Japan) + 00:02:40
3. Twente (Netherlands) + 00:23:08
4. Michigan (USA) + 00:29:06
5. Punch (Belgium) + 00:57:33

Kilometres driven by Nuna9 on day 2: 642 kilometres
Total distance driven by Nuna9 after 2 days: 1.267 kilometres

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