The 2013 World Solar Challenge has a winner! After travelling 3,000 kilometers across the dry heart of Australia using only the power of the sun, the Nuna 7, designed and built by the Nulon Solar Team from the Delft Universty of Technology in the Netherlands, was the first to cross the finish line here in Adelaide today. While the Dutch team maintained the lead for most of the race, the 2011 winners from Japan’s Tokai University dogged their heels and managed to take second place.
In order to document the winner’s arrival I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed at 6:00 am this morning, removed the squirrel costume I was still wearing from last night’s festivities, checked the sky and went back to bed. After days of glorious sunshine the weather had decided that leaden skies and rain would be a suitable accompaniment to the last leg of the Solar Challenge. The event’s website said we could come to the finish line in central Adelaide at 9:00 am, but I figured that solar powered cars wouldn’t be making good time today and I could sleep in. I arrived at 11:00 am and found that the area wasn’t open to the public, so I was glad I didn’t come earlier. I appreciate that there is a large element of randomness in just when the winners will arrive, but if you are going to tell people they can come at 9:00 am you should let them in at that time and maybe keep them amused with solar powered puppets or something. Or they could have asked me to do renewable stand up comedy. (You can believe me when I tell you that an awful lot of my gags are recycled.)
With time to kill I went for a walk and investigated a pawn shop I came across. That turned out to be quite an eye opening experience and made me realise that I should perhaps take more care in noting the exact spelling on store signs before I enter. I recovered from my discombobulation in time to make my way back and see Adelaide’s solar powered electric bus arrive carrying the winning team, along with the arrival of the winning solar car. The vehicle stopped in front of the finish line and Dutch people poured out of the bus and started partying. If I had positioned myself more carefully and opened my mouth I could have gotten some free champagne as that stuff was spurting everywhere.
The announcer of the event then asked the winning team to move forward and actually cross the finish line. Yeah, as if that was going to work. The only way to get those people to move in the direction you wanted them to would be to start a conga line. Fortunately, after about 15 minutes, they remembered that it was traditional to jump into a fountain at the end of the a World Solar Challenge and they all ran across the finish line to leap into the temporary fountain that had been set up just for this occasion. Admittedly this was a tradition that started on stinking hot sunny days after 3,000 kilometers of desert travel rather than cold rainy days, but they weren’t about to let the weather get in their way. And who knows, maybe Dutch people think 15 degrees Celsius is hot?
The Dutch horde attacking the rubber fountain gave me a chance to take some photos of the winning vehicle and later I was able to get some shots of the interior. I was going to ask them if I could have the car if they didn’t need it any more, but after seeing the size of the cockpit I changed my mind. I’m afraid I’m just too muscular to fit comfortably inside it.
All the vehicles in the Challenge will be paraded through the center of Adelaide on Sunday starting at Hindmarsh Square at 2:00 pm and you’re all invited. If you need somewhere to stay my place has an air mattress, a reasonably low spider to human ratio, and plenty of vegemite.
I’d like to thank Bridgestone for for sponsoring the 2013 World Solar Challenge and I recommend checking out their low rolling resistance, ecologically minded tires. (Full disclosure: Yes, I am hoping that Bridgestone will send me free tires. Or failing that, some dried squid. It is a Japanese company, you know.)