Diary: Day 4 – stormy weather and emotions
4:30 in the morning. People yelling on the camp ground. It’s cooler than usual. It had rained the night before, but something was wrong. Yelling again. Sleepy people in their underwear crawl out of their tents and try to get a picture. “Help me with the car!” you hear Hendrik shouting. A storm front has crossed the camp, it is very windy. Two tents must be held in place to prevent them from flying away. The Huawei Sonnenwagen, protected by a tent due to yesterday’s rain, will still be wet because of the strong winds. The entire team is on the spot in no time at all, securing the tent and loading the car into the trailer. Tents are dismantled so they don’t blow away. All in all, it was the fastest camp dismantling of the race so far. And the entire team Sonnenwagen was wide awake.
Punctually at 8 o’ clock, we went back on the road. The sky is still completely covered with clouds. Reaching the control stop in Alice Springs on time at 12 o’clock seems increasingly unlikely. The convoy rides at low speed over the Stuart Highway. The atmosphere is very tense, is there a threat to drop out of the Challenger Class? Then, a security car from the race control comes by. “Pull over and we will have a quick chat.” The entire team hears the radio message over the radios, is shocked and pulls over to the left. Everything seems to be over! But we have good information about the weather from Alice Springs and only a few kilometres until we only go downhill. The security officers are convinced to let us drive on. The team runs to their cars and the journey continues, with the battery almost empty.
Then the good news comes, a support vehicle driving ahead has driven far enough in front to get the internet back. On Twitter, you can read on the official channel that the control stop is held up for 2.5 hours longer to account for the bad weather. By the way the worst weather ever during a World Solar Challenge. The team is in high spirits, we can manage that easily. And indeed: At 12:04 we reach the control stop in Alice Springs. The driver Enno is cheered by the whole support team, we have made another stage! On the way we even overtook the Stanford team that had decided to load the car and take it with them on the trailer.
From this moment on, (almost) everything went like clockwork. The sky cleared up, bright sunshine. We drove 65 km/h and were able to recharge the battery. The bad mood in the morning gave way to joyful excitement. The support team, who still had to do some shopping, was surprised that they weren’t able to catch up with the convoy despite hours of driving at 130 km/h. In the afternoon, we were able to start another overtaking process, the team GOKO was caught up! Another exciting anecdote: On the way we were overtaken by a roadtrain with interesting cargo: A battle tank passed our Huawei Sonnenwagen.
At about 5 p. m. the sky was marked by long blocks of clouds alternating with clear skies. Where should one stop to be able to use the sun as much as possible? In the end, an impulse decision was made and the battery was partially recharged in the evening sun. Tomorrow we can continue with that! And the weather forecast is also perfect, so we just make it in time for the next control stop, whose end time has also been extended. But for the rest of the race, it’ll be very close! In the evening there was a strong rain, which 15 of our boys used to shower again after days of renunciation. The cooking team also rewarded us with a BBQ, including camel, kangaroo and crocodile meat.
19 teams have dropped out of the race. Day 4 was definitely the most emotional and exciting day to date. From the low point in the morning to the high spirits in the afternoon, from a strong thunderstorm to passing tanks. This day will not be forgotten by any of us!