“Race Day 4”
By Matt Nixon & Rachel Kramer
19 October 2011 – The Outback
I’ve been embedded with the University of Michigan Solar Car Team, bringing you updates from the Outback. They are competing in the World Solar Challenge. Tonight we have a report written by the team’s (always in motion) manager Rachel Kramer. Enjoy!
And as always, you can keep up with the WSC here: http://solarcontrols.engin.umich.edu/
DAY 4 – EVENING UPDATE
By Rachel Kramer
Approx. 1:00 PM – Michigan pulled into the “Opal Inn” control stop in Coober Pedy. As the first stop after crossing into South Australia, Coober Pedy is absolutely in the middle of nowhere. The town’s defining feature is the fact that it is surrounded by opal mines, which result in a landscape covered in hills of sand and red dirt that have been taken out of the ground during the search for opals. The trip from Kulgera, where Michigan camped last night, was nearly 400 km and the longest leg of the race.
Winds were extremely strong today, as the team discovered about 100 km short of the Coober Pedy stop. A giant gust of wind was able to open and remove one of the windowed fairings that typically cover Quantum’s front wheels and open only when the car is making a sharp turn. These “windows” are fairly large parts, so spares are not kept in the main caravan and the team had to wait several minutes for the semi trailer to catch up with a spare. Once a new fairing was placed on Quantum they were back on the road, but the gap between Michigan, Nuon and Tokai had widened to be more than 30 minutes between teams.
On the trip from Coober Pedy to the next control stop in Glendambo, bad luck hit Quantum again with just the wrong combination of cross winds and road train wakes to pull the window off a second time. This time the team was ready and made the fix more quickly, but significant time was still lost on the side of the road today.
We will finish Day 4 by camping in Glendambo, a town which proudly advertises a population of 22,000 sheep, 2,000,000 flies and 30 humans. Anything can happen in the last 591 km of the race, but we know we’ll need some luck to go our way tomorrow in order to beat Michigan’s previous records and place higher than third in the world.