The first scrutineering
Hello dear fans, friends and family,
what a week! This one was all about the scrutineering and qualifying processes, the tests that determine our admission and starting position for the race. We have worked so long for this moment, our great adventure in Australia, and we will not lose focus now. As always, we worked one or two (or more) night shifts, optimized last details of our Huawei Sonnenwagen and slowly everybody realized: We are in Australia, just a few days before the race, and now it’s getting serious!
Scrutineering is the first official challenge at the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. During this inspection, the officials check whether all electrical and mechanical specifications from the more than 40 pages of regulations have been complied with. Of course, we always knew that this exam would not be a piece of cake, but we became even more aware of that the day before. On the day before, not all of the 15 teams made it to the final acceptance. For them this meant: back to the workshop and doing some fixes. In the case of safety-relevant components that cannot be fixed, even the racing admittance was threatened. The team was very tense before scrutineering. No one wanted another night shift in the workshop. As newcomers, we took the specifications very seriously and kept them in mind during all of our design process. We had always chosen the safe alternative for critical decisions, even if this meant a higher weight.
This strategy has paid off. The officials were enthusiastic about our robust and safe car. At almost all stations we received green dots („pass“). Only the positions of the seat and the GPS tracker had to be corrected by a few centimetres. Of course, we were able to carry out these small works directly on site. Thus, the Static Scrutineering was passed and the morale in the team was high. With this great result, we have lived up to the high expectations bestowed upon on us as “German Engineers”.
Scrutineering was also a great opportunity to observe the cars of the competition and to exchange ideas with the other teams. You can find out who had what kind of problems and how to deal with them. The worldwide solar vehicle community is an open and friendly one. Our premiere car received a lot of praise from the other teams and they are looking forward to the new competitor. Our assessment after comparing with our competitors: We are not yet on a level with the top teams, but we are close.
The next steps were dynamic scrutineering and Qualifying. During dynamic scrutineering, the vehicle has to complete different cone courses and pass a braking test in a given time. If this is not successful, minutes of punishment could be imposed. We easily beat the required 18 seconds with a time of 15.41 seconds. Christoph is even sure that he could have driven faster if the officials hadn’t already given us the “ok”. We also passed the following brake test with flying colors! Now we were ready for the first actual racing event, the qualifying.
Qualifying traditionally determines the starting order. Whoever drives the fastest lap on the Hidden Valley Raceway can start first during the Bridgestone World Solar challenge. The race time starts with the first solar-powered vehicle leaving, so a bad position can mean a race time of more than an hour without having covered one kilometre. On the race track, the driver has to balance race time and risk because our solar vehicle is not designed for the acceleration of a high speed race. Nevertheless, we pushed our electric motor to its performance limit! With a proud 2 minutes and 15.9 seconds we drove the fifth-best time on the 2.87 km long Hidden Valley Raceway and were able to show to the other teams, that we are a force to be reckoned with.
Tomorrow, the race will finally begin, which we and the international teams have been looking forward to for two years. In the burning heat of the Australian Outback, it is important to use the available solar radiation efficiently in order to cover the 3022 km from Darwin to Adelaide as quickly as possible. In addition to the dangers of the long distance trip like heat, fatigue and the local fauna, there are also roadtrains to be encountered. Another challenge is the provision and accommodation of our 38 people team. At the end of each 9-hour race day, a camp with tents and kitchen must be set up and a big meal has to be cooked by one part of the group during the remaining hours of sunshine, while the other part prepares the vehicle for the next race day. Our adventure begins!