Interview with 2019 Agoria Solar Team Manager: Willem-Jan
17 Oct 2020
Today marks the 1 year anniversary of Agoria Solar Team's inaugural BWSC title! After rising to the top of the field in the last stretch of the challenge, Agoria Solar Team's car Bluepoint crossed the finish line and obtained the Belgian team a dramatic and elated win! We checked in with Agoria's 2019 Team Manager Willem-Jan one year on to find out what the win meant to the team.
The 2019 event saw Agoria Soar Team’s first ever BWSC win! Tell us about the feeling you and your team experienced crossing the finish line.
Reward for work of past 15 years.
Our BWSC win in 2019 really felt like the well-earned reward for the unconditional efforts which our team invested in the project; and this not only during the last 15 months before the race, but actually during the last 15 years. After our win in the Carrera Solar Atacama in Chili in 2018, this BWSC win was not only a fantastic reward, but also a clear proof that our team efforts paid off.
Talk us through the realisation whilst on the road that you were in first place.
During the third day of the race we were already catching up on our competitors. But mainly from the fourth day on the team realised our first BWSC win was closer than ever. Thanks to our crabbing system, the BluePoint was able to sail the wind. We were able to drive more stable facing strong side winds, and even benefitted from it for energy levels. This allowed us to make up the 40 minutes time difference with Vattenfall Solar Team at the start of day four to just 2 minutes at the end of the day in Port Augusta.
How did the team celebrate upon arriving home to Belgium?
After 15 months of unconditional commitment and after the exhausting challenge, our team first took a well-deserved vacation. We enjoyed the beautiful beaches, mountains and forests of Australia and some of us even travelled to New Zealand. When arriving back in Belgium we were honoured by the major of Leuven and by our university and afterwards, we had a good party with the alumni of the older Belgian solar teams who are still strongly involved with the project.
What was the most challenging aspect of the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge for Agoria Solar Team?
In the 2019 edition of the BWSC, the challenge was to find the limit between performance and reliability of the solar cars, which are often two conflicting objectives. As the rules did not change compared to the BWSC in 2017, the BluePoint was designed and built as a highly optimized version of our previous car, the Punch 2. This allowed us to design every component to its limit, increasing the overall performance of the BluePoint. However, while aiming for these performance limits, our team always kept reliability in mind.
What aspects of Bluepoint do you believe made it the winning vehicle in 2019?
The focus on both performance and reliability was one of the reasons why the BluePoint was the winning solar car in the BWSC 2019. These objectives also showed off during the race, as the BluePoint had zero technical difficulties during the 3000 km race. We strongly believe this was one of the important reasons resulting in our win.
What aspects of your team culture and strengths do you believe enabled Agoria Solar Team to win in 2019?
Another objective of our team was to be perfectly prepared for the race. By organizing multiple team buildings and race simulations, our team managed to create lifelong friendships and blind faith in each other. Every team member also perfectly knew its own role and strength within the team and the role of the other team members. This resulted in a perfectly oiled team with a real winning team spirit.
Tell us your favourite memory or story from the 2019 event.
The fourth day of the race we finally caught up on Vattenfall Solar Team. We managed to make up a 40 min lag to 2 minutes as a result of our crabbing system and the perfectly oiled team. The feeling that our first BWSC win was within reach, really created a massive amount of adrenaline in the team, which is a feeling we will never forget.
How did you personally benefit from participating in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge? What did you learn and what did you gain?
During the solar project, every team member grew a lot, both on a personal and professional level. Finishing a project from an idea to a real car in a very motivated team is an incredible opportunity that allowed me to build up professional experience which would most likely take two to three times as long in any other company.
Would you recommend participating in the event to others who might be interested? Why?
I would definitely do it over, joining a solar team is an opportunity that allows you to invest in yourself both on a personal and professional level. But most of all, it is an incredibly cool adventure!
What advice would you give to teams who are starting out?
If you want to win, you first have to finish. 3021k m is an extremely long distance in very harsh conditions. Start with building up reliability and subsequently focus on performance.