World Solar Challenge 2013 Kicks Off

38 teams commenced the 3,000 kilometre 2013 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Darwin on Sunday.
Australian solar car ‘Arrow 1’ from Queensland took pole position honours in the Elite Challenger Class and Team Eindhoven from the Netherlands and their family four-seater car ‘Stella‘ led the Cruiser Class.
Team Arrow had reached speeds of 120km/hr in track testing at Hidden Valley in the lead up to the event. Arrow 1 is being driven by Former Formula Ford race car driver Chris Ahern.
The teams will be battling gruelling conditions for the first half of the racing period. According to WeatherZone, temperatures will reach the mid-to-high 30s and possibly nudging the 40 degree mark on Tuesday and Wednesday. There will be some relief on Thursday; but also the threat of clouds. A high pressure system will then kick in from Friday bringing dry and sunny conditions for the final leg into Adelaide.
Event Director Chris Selwood described the event an extreme endurance adventure.
So, is driving a solar powered car a bit of an anti-climax after having raced Formula Ford? Mr Ahern said he feels the same thrill when driving a solar car.
“Solar cars are set up to be neutral and highly efficient with very low drag and don’t have the down force of a race car. As you get faster it actually begins to generate lift, so you’re basically attached to a big wing,” he said.
“Finding the car’s best performance on the track becomes an exercise in controlling a vehicle that wants to fly.”
Aside from Team Arrow, the Australian teams competing this year are:
Aurora Revolution – Aurora Vehicle Association, based in Melbourne.
Solace Solar Car – University of Western Sydney.
Sunswift – University of New South Wales Solar Racing Team.
Solar Spirit – TAFE SA
Cars are allowed a nominal 5 kilowatt-hours of stored energy, with the remainder supplied by the sun or recovered from the kinetic energy of the vehicle.
According to the last update, the Netherlands’ Nuon Solar team were leading at the end of day 1.