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The Netherlands back on top in the Sasol Solar Challenge

Press release
Lucas Frantzen
Nuna on the highest mountain of the Sasol Solar Challenge
Photo credits Jorrit Lousberg - Nuna on the highest mountain of the Sasol Solar Challenge

Teams increase pressure on one another

On the fourth day of the Sasol Solar Challenge, the Brunel Solar Team has regained the lead. The Dutch team passed the Belgian team just minutes after the start. By driving an extra loop, the Dutch Solar Team arrived at the day stop in Graaf Reinet with more kilometres under their belt. As a result, they reclaimed the lead at the halfway mark of the race.

Competition increases the pressure

The pressure on both sides is rising as the Netherlands and Belgium compete head-to-head. They keep a close eye on each other, filming and analyzing each and every move to discover possible violations. The teams have to meet strict requirements when, for example, making a driver change or during a loopstop. Even handing over a water bottle to the driver when boarding is prohibited. Any violations are reported and may result in a penalty. No team has been penalized as of yet.

Both teams also use a following car to monitor how many loops are driven as well as the speed of the other solar cars. Today's route included a short loop and a long loop. The Brunel Solar Team decided, after they had taken the lead, to only do a short run because they saw that the Belgian team did the same. This way they could catch up with as little energy as possible.

Steepest slope

The route from Gariep Dam to Graaff Reinet is known for its more extreme height difference than previous days. The Sasol Solar Challenge's steepest climb was even faced on the section from the loop stop to the day stop. Driver Dries Borstlap was specially selected for this part of the route because of his skills as a stable driver: "Both the climb and the descent are quite a challenge for Nuna 11s. Uphill it's crucial to keep the engine cool whilst downhill it's important to keep the car rolling as stable as possible and to do little braking so the battery can recharge optimally.'

Final score

Today's route included a small loop of 35 km and a larger one of 50 km. By traveling a path that is 50 km longer than the Belgian Solar Team, the Brunel Solar Team has advanced by 30 km.

Blind stage

Tomorrow is an unique day in the Sasol Solar Challenge, as the so-called "Blind Stage" begins. The route on that day won't be disclosed until a golden envelope containing it is handed out tonight. This gives the teams little time to prepare for the next day. Therefore, the strategists will need to work nonstop through the night. Remco Dirks, one of the strategists, explains: ‘To be able to drive the route as effectively as possible, we began factoring in a wide scale of variables months in advance… So the fact that we don't know tomorrow's route yet is an extremely big challenge for the team. To be fully prepared for the start tomorrow, we will try our best to calculate as much as we can tonight.