The Sasol Solar Challenge's Blind Stage is a race against the clock
By finishing first, the Brunel Solar Team secured pole position
Graaff-Reinet, September 13, 2022 – The so-called "Blind Stage" was the highlight of the fifth day of the Sasol Solar Challenge. The route of this day was unknown until it was revealed last night in a golden envelope. Unlike other days the focus today was speed, rather than the most amount of kilometers driven. The team that arrived at the finish first today, has the pole position tomorrow. Today’s victory belonged to the Brunel Solar Team.
The rules for this unusual day of racing were completely different. Today, the teams traveled a lap to and from Graaff-Reinet instead of the usual A to B with an optional loop. There was an expansion to that route, but unlike other days, it could only be driven once. In contrast to previous race days, where the objective was to travel as many kilometers possible, the objective of today was to be the first to arrive at the day's finish. As a result, both teams had the same mileage when they reached the day's stop and today's winner was the team that arrived at the day's stop first. This honor went to the Brunel Solar Team today, who also left from pole position this morning. The Belgian team arrived second at today's finish in Graaff-Reinet despite having to leave last due to a time penalty yesterday.
Rugged terrain and the oldest concrete road
The oldest concrete road in South Africa, which was also the narrowest and most difficult, was part of the route today. There, opposing traffic had to pass one another on the shoulder. The team was able to alert oncoming vehicles by moving ahead in a convoy, allowing Nuna to pass securely. Naturally, the support vehicle trailed closely behind, equipped with a kit for any tire changes. Fortunately, no assistance was required.
The sloping and rugged terrain presented additional difficulties. Just before the start of the race, the Brunel Solar Team decided to use the old motor from last year, instead of the self-built, innovative motor. The new motor proved unreliable since it couldn’t be tested thoroughly due to a delay in the design procedure. Last year's engine was also used during the race in Morocco. The engine there overheated frequently and proved to be unsuitable for the steep terrain. The crew put in a lot of effort up until just before the race to create a cooling system for the old engine that would solve this issue. The engine performed exceptionally well today, according to Lars van Keulen, technical manager of the Brunel Solar Team: "Nuna 11s drove like a charm today. Any solar car that travels through sloping terrain faces challenges, but the new cooling system kept the engine cool. The drivers also responded well to the landscape today by maintaining a stable speed. We can be extra proud of our car today.”
Today, almost all teams traveled the same distance. A lap that began and concluded at Graaff-Reinet and plus one extension of 50 kilometres. Today’s final score is the same as it was yesterday. The Brunel Solar Team is still in the lead with a 30 kilometer advantage over their biggest competitor; the Belgian team.