Tension builds toward the final of Sasol Solar Challenge
Dark clouds, heavy traffic and different strategies
Riversdale, Sept. 15, 2022 - On the seventh day of the Sasol Solar Challenge, the tension between the Dutch and Belgian teams continues to rise. With tomorrow's finish line in sight, both teams are going all out for victory. A totally different strategy, varying weather conditions and heavy traffic seem to drive the teams apart. Still, the teams finished with only a 10 km difference on the second-to-last day of the challenge in South Africa. In the battle for the title, the final racing day will be decisive.
Varying weather conditions
One of the most important pillars for strategy in solar racing is the weather. Every day, "weatherman" Wietse Bouwmeester charts the weather conditions in real time. He regularly analyzes weather maps and input from Weerplaza, and of course looks up at the sky to estimate the amount of sun and wind per minute. Based on this, the Brunel Solar Team decided to schedule the control stop in the morning. This is the daily mandatory stop of 30 minutes, which is utilised for static charging in full sunlight. The Belgian team scheduled this stop at the end of the day and could recharge much less due to the amount of cloud cover. 'This is not easy,' says Wietse, 'you have to be able to make a good estimation of how long clouds will linger and where they will go. Since this often only becomes feasible at the last minute, you must remain flexible in your strategy.’
In addition to the clouds, the busy and chaotic roads on today's route provided an additional challenge for the strategy team. The route of today's loop was only announced last night, as today the so-called "Half-Blind Stage" took place. It ended up being two loops of 20 or 40 km along the coast of South Africa. A beautiful, but very busy road that also included a toll gate. An extra important day for Pre-Scout and Scout, the two cars driving ahead of Nuna during the race. They made sure that the toll gates were already open, and warned traffic to pull over in time so that Nuna could drive right through.
The Belgian team passed the Brunel Solar Team just after the day's start. Due to the early control stop of the Dutch team, the Belgian team also managed to build a lead quickly. The Dutch team drove considerably slower, which allowed the Belgian team to drive one additional short loop of 20 km. This reduced the Brunel Solar Team's total lead to just 10 km. In the overall final standings the Dutch team is in first with 3771 total km driven, just ahead of Belgium with 3781 km.
The challenge's final ranking will be determined by the results of tomorrow. With the Dutch team only having a 10 km lead, the race tomorrow is still completely open. Because both teams arrived late today, a time penalty will apply to both. This means that neither team will start from pole position tomorrow. In short: the Sasol Solar Challenge ends tomorrow with an exciting final.