World Solar Challenge 2019: When you think you’ve come through the worst…
Just as we ended the previous day in the storm, the next race day began just as stormy. After we had freed the sun car from the sand again, we started the stage to Coober Pedy relieved with the expectation to have survived the worst. But contrary to our hopes, shortly before our arrival at the checkpoint we were even worse hit. It was a consequence of unfortunate events that we could not expect and simulate in this constellation.
With storm gusts with a speed of up to 100km/h it swept the sonnenwagen from the road. After a roadtrain passed the sonnenwagen on the opposite lane, our beloved racing car was so affected by the suction of the roadtrain and the bumps of the road that it was pulled onto the opposite lane. Our driver Kai had still tried to steer against the breakaway of the vehicle, but by the combination of the bad weather conditions and track conditions he had no chance even with very good reactions. The Sonnenwagen turned 180 degrees on the opposite lane on the road and overturned twice in a row before coming to a standstill on the roof about 5 metres from the track, and the whole team reacted magnificently and without hesitation. While the scene of the accident was marked with yellow flags, the emergency stop button of the sun car was pressed, the car was turned around and the quay was freed from the cockpit.
An emergency signal was immediately sent to the emergency doctor to make sure that our driver could be examined as soon as possible. When Kai was examined from the hospital and released a short time later, we were unable to accurately assess the extent of the damage.
At first sight it looked like a total loss and the team in shock had already ordered the trailer, knowing that a transport in the trailer would mean the retirement from the race.
But after a short period of reflection we decided not to give up, no matter how serious the damage was and how long the repair would take!
Three main types of damage were identified:
On the one hand the carbon hull was broken in many places, beyond that the whole cockpit was destroyed and the solar cells were scratched. Fortunately and contrary to our expectations, we could not detect any defective cells.
As a result we replaced the broken windscreen, patched the broken parts with resin and fixed them with adhesive tape. Finally the solar cells were cleaned of dirt.
With a lot of effort every single one of us made sure that the car is ready to drive again and we will continue the race! Because for us it is certain that after 2 years of hard work we will finish the race at any price! When the sun car actually arrived in Coober Pedy at the checkpoint, the relief was huge. We realized again what this team is capable of with unbelievable willpower and how proud we can be of the work we have done. We were in each other’s arms with tears in our eyes, all the emotions and tensions of the last few hours were suddenly unloaded.
We have made the impossible possible and will cross the finish line even after this accident together with the sonnenwagen!