German team to lead world solar challenge away
21 Oct 2023
The German solar car outfit Sonnenwagen Aachen will lead away a fleet of solar-powered race cars in Darwin on Sunday after posting the fastest time in a dynamic qualifying session at Hidden Valley Raceway on Saturday morning.
The start of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, a 3,020km quest through the centre of Australia, pitches about 40 bespoke solar vehicles against one another.
Sonnenwagen Aachen – a collaboration between two German universities in the village near the Dutch border – was the fastest car overall, averaging about 88km/h around the circuit. For context – that’s only about 50 seconds slower than the track’s lap record, posted by professional drivers in petrol-powered racers. Indeed, some solar teams were comfortably clearing more than 120km/h in a straight line.
But the relevance of a ‘hot lap’ is strictly, speaking, minimal. Cars are expected to average around 90km/h during the event, putting them on course to finish the event in just over three days.
“Formula One only lasts for about three hours,” says the BWSC event director Chris Selwood. “This is an extreme endurance event. It requires a great level of attention to detail for energy management and the reliability of the car will be tested to the absolute extreme.”
Still, Sonnenwagen is happy to be at the front of the field and is, of course, hoping to remain there all the way into Adelaide.
But after engaging ‘hare mode’ for their hot lap, team leader Lina Schwering is mindful that a tortoise-like approach is needed for the long drive south.
“I’m super happy. To perform like this is really due to driver skill and weighing between wanting to be quick but also wanting to be safe and I think we’ve managed that,” Schewering says.
“But the cars aren’t made for the race track, they’re made for the outback, so [in qualifying] they’re really a bit like a fish out of water – they’re not really ‘happy’ about it.”
There will be tight competition between the fastest teams, between them sharing a raft of world and regional challenge titles. Behind Sonnenwagen – and less than a second off their qualifying pace – is Innoptus, the defending world solar challenge winners from Belgium. Third away will be the Netherlands-based Brunel team – considered the world’s best – followed by their compatriots, Top Dutch Solar Racing.
The Kogakuin University team from Tokyo will start fifth, ahead of the Eclipse team from École de technologie supérieure in Canada; the Tokai University team (also from Tokyo); and the top-ranked Australian team Sunswift – comfortably the fastest car in the event’s Cruiser Class, and faster than many of the smaller and lighter ‘Challenger’ cars in the field.
The University of Michigan team will launch its challenge from the back of the pack after its time was scratched from the qualifying when a fault stalled the car.
The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge commences at Darwin’s State Square at 8:00am ACST/9:30am AEDT on Sunday 22 October. The first competitors are expected at the finish in Adelaide on Wednesday afternoon. Cars will rest at nine official control stops in Katherine, Dunmarra, Tennant Creek, Barrow Creek, Alice Springs, Erldunda, Coober Pedy, Glendambo and Port Augusta.
Bridgestone World Solar Challenge start order
- Sonnenwagen Aachen (Germany)
- Innoptus (Belgium)
- Brunel (Netherlands)
- Top Dutch Solar Racing (Netherlands)
- Kogakuin University (Japan)
- Eclipse ETS (Canada)
- Tokai University (Japan)
- Sunswift Racing (Australia)^
- ITU ZES (Turkey)
- ANU Solar Racing (Australia)
- Sitchting Solar Team Twente (Netherlands)
- Siam Technology College (Thailand)^
- ASCEND, Deakin University (Australia)^
- Durham University (United Kingdom)
- Goko High School (Japan)
- Jonkoping University Solar Team (Sweden)
- Wakayama University (Japan)
- Chalmers University (Sweden)
- Western Sydney University (Australia)
- Adelaide University (Australia)
- University of Minnesota (USA)^
- Alpha Centauri, ETH Zurich (Switzerland)
- Blue Sky Solar Racing, University of Toronto (Canada)
- Sun Shuttle Team, Beijing Institute of Technology (China)^
- Solaride (Estonia)^
- Halmstad University (Sweden)
- Team Arrow (Australia)
- Apollo Solar Racing, National Kaohsiung University (Taiwan)^
- Flinders University (Australia)^
- TUCN Solar Racing (Romania)
- SAITEM, Sakarya University (Turkey)
- VTC Hong Kong (Hong Kong)^
- Seoul National University (South Korea)
- University of Michigan (USA)
Other teams that failed to post a time may be eligible to compete, subject to approval by event scrutineers. These include:
- Futurosolare (Italy)^
- UITM EcoPhoton Solar Racing Team (Malaysia)
- AgniRath (India)
- Estidamah Solar Team (Saudi Arabia)
^ denotes Cruiser Class vehicles