The North American Solar Challenge is officially underway with the University of Minnesota's Borealis III leading the pack. Sitting at the pole position, Borealis III left the start line at 9:00 am for Weatherford, Texas. Check out photos from all the vehicles crossing the start line. Below is an image of all the vehicles at the starting line with Peter Meinz behind the wheel of Borealis III.
The top three at the end of the day are University of Michigan at number 1, followed by the University of Minnesota at number two behind by one minute, with third being M.I.T. at 16 minutes. We were the first vehicle to arrive at the finish with Michigan showing up two minutes later, but since Michigan left the start three minutes behind us, they are now in first. A one minute lead can be anything like a long stop light, and in a 60 hour race that was won two years ago by four hours, there's a lot of road left to travel. We look forward to an exciting race with our fellow leaders.
M.I.T. had an interesting day when the motor was accidentally switched into reverse at a stop, and the solar car rammed into their chase vehicle. The car drove the rest of the day with a wicked spoiler, and a lot of broken solar cells. But the M.I.T. team is resilient and surprisingly jovial, and quickly set about replacing all the broken cells with new modules. At third place, the team is in a great position.
Weather was a big factor today and the U of M was lucky to get out ahead before the rain struck. When the thunderstorm did come, Borealis III was safe in the trailer in the finish area. Calgary wasn't so lucky and got caught in a major down pour. There's a great picture posted of the team bailing out water from their fairings. However, the team made it through the storm and arrived at the finish late afternoon.
Northwestern, on the other hand, was not able to finish today and had to drop out of the race. Halfway through the day their car had a battery fire that left the vehicle disabled on the side of the road. The team is fine, but the vehicle is now forcing Northwestern to call it quits.
SIUE also had to drop out of the race due to a qualifying conditional. Because the team failed to qualify by two laps, the officials made a deal and let the car race the first leg if they could maintain an average speed of 25 mph throughout the day. SIUE also got caught in the storm and were not able to make their speed stipulation.
Stanford had some trouble at the starting line and was forced to drop back and start last, but everyone was happy to see their car swing into the finish line this afternoon.
In all it was a great first day of racing, and we look forward to an equally great day tomorrow.